Apply for Couch to Coder 2024: Learn to code from scratch this summer

Applications for Couch to Coder 2024 are now open. Go from complete beginner to confident coder in just 5 weeks and learn the fundamentals of coding and software development. Plus, gain a certificate of completion for your CV and LinkedIn!

How to find a mentor

Book open Reading time: 4 mins

Having a mentor can be a great way of progressing your career.

Mentors can guide you about the specifics of your chosen field or offer more general career advice.

As a graduate or a young professional, having a mentor can help you get your foot in the door – and support you once you’ve taken the leap.

In short: mentors are great. But how do you get one? Here’s how to find the right mentor to help you with your career progression.

Two women looking at a phone and smiling at a career event

Not a Bright Network member yet?

Becoming a Bright Network member is free and easy – sign up to get exclusive access to jobs, events, networking opportunities, advice and more.

What does a mentor do?

Career mentors can offer support and help you grow your skills. They won’t tell you what to do, so they’ll need to know what you need from them before they can help you.

Mentors can support you in different ways. This may include talking about their own career story, which can be inspiring. Their story can also include practical tips that you can use. Mentors may also offer to introduce you to people they know, so that you can start to build your own network.

While mentors are not teachers, they can help you develop your knowledge through a combination of friendly advice and guidance on where to learn more.

Every mentor will have a slightly different approach. A good mentor will also adapt depending on what their mentee (ie. you) needs.

What to look for in a mentor

Before you search for a career mentor, ask yourself what you’re looking to get out of the relationship. Do you need advice on which skills you need to develop? Are you looking for a complete career change? Or do you want general tips about the world of work?

Remember, your mentor doesn’t need to be with you for the rest of your life. In fact, they could only play a very small part in your wider career progression. Just make sure they can actually help reach the goal you have set for yourself. Think about what you need right now.

You may also want to find a mentor that you can relate to. This might mean that you feel more comfortable with someone who shares your ethnicity, gender or another characteristic. This might be particularly useful if you’re part of a demographic that’s under-represented in your chosen industry. So, if you’re a black woman going into computer science, you might want to find someone who understands being the ‘only one’ in the room. If you have ADHD, you may want to prioritise somebody who shares your neurodiversity. Sometimes you just need a mentor who gets you and your life experiences.

While you may not be able to find a representative mentor, you can still look for allies and people who uplift diverse talent. Look out for those on LinkedIn who mention that they’re an advocate for DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). Anyone involved in DEI processes at their workplace should be well-equipped to understand diverse perspectives.

How to find a mentor

Finding a mentor can be more complicated. Not all students and graduates happen to have direct access to industry leaders, after all.

If you’re already in work, you may want to check and see if your HR department has a mentoring scheme already in place. These are not always guaranteed to produce exactly what you want (the mentor involved may not be 100% committed!) but it will give you some good ideas as to who to look for and the sort of advice a mentor could have to offer.

If you’re still studying, find out if your university has a mentoring scheme. These can pair you up with an ex-student aligned with your career goals.

Networking will be your best friend when it comes to finding a mentor. LinkedIn is a great tool to consider. Try searching by sector and look for any connections you may already have, whether it be university or mutual acquaintance. Remember, you don’t have to only search locally. You can use LinkedIn to find mentors anywhere in the UK – or even the world.

And don’t forget about friends and family connections. Your future mentor may be someone you know through your community. Take advantage of the opportunity to pick their brain about their experience. Networking doesn’t just have to happen in professional settings. You may meet your perfect mentor at a party.

How to approach a potential mentor

Your potential mentor is likely to be pretty busy. As such, it's a good idea to identify exactly how much of their time you are asking for and approach them professionally and with commitment. Before you message them, think about what expectations you want to set. For example, is this a one-off meeting, or would you like someone to catch up with regularly?

If you propose a coffee meeting, then ensure you are very clear about what you need from your mentor and when. Let them know that you would like to ask them some questions about their professional experience at a certain place on a specific date and at a specific time.

If you’re concerned about the costs of meeting your mentor out and about or are nervous about seeing them in person, consider a video call instead. Even if you live in the same area, this may work better for your potential mentor as it gives them more flexibility.

Maintaining the mentor relationship

Once you’ve found a mentor, it’s on you to maintain the relationship.

There are many benefits to being a mentor, but the mentee is still the one who has more to gain. Plus, your mentor is likely very busy and giving you their time and professional advice for free. Because of this, you need to be the one who arranges any catchups.

Sometimes life will be too busy to see your mentor but make sure you keep them updated. Keep in touch and arrange meetings (whether face-to-face or virtual) at the intervals you previously agreed. Whatever you do, make sure that you contact your mentor if plans change and you can no longer meet up.

While it’s important to keep in touch when you want to maintain the mentor relationship, it’s also good to know when to let go. A mentor doesn’t have to be forever. So, when you no longer feel that you’re learning from the relationship, it’s fine to politely bring things to an end. They may even be able to recommend you a new mentor who matches your new goals.

Take our Career Path Test to find a career that suits you

Our Career Path Test matches you with sectors and roles that line up with your interests and values so you can go into a field you'll love.