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How to find a Mentor

jcsmileyjr profile image JC Smiley ・8 min read

I'm going to talk about seven ways to find a mentor in the tech industry. My advice is to do all of them as the opportunity comes along. On top of that, you should aggressively put yourself in a position for that opportunity to happen and not rely on luck. It's when we intentionally do ABC that the chances of XYZ happening increase dramatically.

Join a tech community that leads to a mentorship

Why: This is the BEST way to get a mentor because this person and yourself had a naturally organic connection. They want to mentor you out of compassion, friendship, and a genuine need to see you succeed.

How: You have to freely offer something of value (ex. motivation, links to resources, debugging assistance, advice, etc.) while having a good conversation and they see potential in you.

Who: There are many tech communities to join based on your social media preference and technical area of choice. To name a few areas as examples:

What makes this Hard

  1. This method of finding a mentor takes time and patience.
  2. You have to proactively engage with others. Even if you think your knowledge isn't expert level, share what you know and contribute to ongoing conversations. Just because someone is passionate about the same things you are passionate about, it doesn't mean they have the bandwidth to be a mentor.
  3. You will have many conversations with a lot people to find that special someone who wants to mentor you.

Follow someone on social media

Why: This is a passive mentorship and the second best type of mentor. The tech industry has a lot of people that post content on social media to teach others.

How: Find someone who is doing what you want to do and follow them. Search the web and Twitter for the technologies you want to learn and you will find people creating resources showing you how to use that technology. If this mentor method isn't clear to understand, consider what mentorship is. Someone asking another for career advice and direction on what to learn.

Who: There are people on social media who are experts in their fields giving advice freely everyday.

My advice is to follow a variety of people and resources to give you a large selection of content to digest. Overtime, you can curate whose content is best for you.

Examples of People to Follow :
LinkedIn: Danny Thompson
YouTube: James Quick
Twitter: Chris Sea

What makes this Hard

  1. The negative is that it's not personally. They aren't directly answering your specific problem.
  2. You are allowing them to mentor on a one to many level with content instead of a one to one with direct messages.

Impress a senior developer while working on a team project

Who: The potential mentor could be the team leader if you are interning at a company, a more senior developer on a Hackathon team, or the open source maintainer of a open source project you are contributing to.

How: The key is communication and hard work. You must impress them with your talents, work ethic, or charm. But at the end of that team project, they want to continue the relationship with the goal of developing your skills and assisting in your career.

What makes this Hard

  1. You have to engage in conversation and you must work at your highest level. The goal is to razzle and dazzle them with a great first and last impression.
  2. You have to seek opportunities to be in a team environment and in a position you can shine.

Join a mentorship service to be assigned a mentor

Why: This is the fastest and easiest method of getting a mentor.

How: Search online for a site that provide mentorships.
Example Resources

Who: You can shop for mentors that suit your needs. If you are learning ABC, find someone who has experience in ABC. Another perk is you can find someone that has a similar background as you. For myself, finding someone of similar ethnicity and area of the country is important. That person can help me navigate the tech world based on reality and not on the best case scenario.

What makes this Hard

  1. Because the relationship was assigned and not grown organically, there is no starting relationship. You have no reason to trust this person advice other then they have more experience then you. The mentor has no reason to take the time to learn your strengths and weakness or how best to help you.
  2. You are more then likely to get cookie cutter advice. But keep this in mind, professional advice from someone is better then no advice.

In a learning environment, the teacher decides to mentor you

Why: This method of mentorship is more streamlined. You are in a clear position to know who the mentor is and how to communicate to them.

Who: In this scenario, a professor at a college or instructor at a boot camp decides to mentor you.

How: You are in a fantastic position to communicate and convert them from teacher to mentor. You have an opportunity to build a relationship through the program. They expect nothing back from you beyond doing more then the expected to impress them.

What makes this Hard
Because this is a class setting, you have plenty of rivals for the professor or instructor attention. Everyone in that class and the one before you is setting the bar higher for who is better.


In a learning environment, a fellow student mentor you

Why: A mentor don't have to be someone older or more experience then you. A mentor is someone who has some knowledge you want.

Who: In this scenario, someone in your college or boot camp class can be a mentor. This person can be ahead of you in some technical aspects or have natural talents that allowed them to be further along in an area. An example is someone who is creative may design better user interfaces then you or someone who took college math in high school that gives them an edge in data algorithms. They make great mentors in those areas that you need help in.

What makes this Hard

Again, you must engage with people around you. Even more important, you must offer something back in return.


Blindly message someone asking them to mentor you

Why: This is the most straight forward method of getting an mentor.

Who: Choose someone you admire or think can help you and communicate your willingness to learn from them. It will be a yes or no.

How: With the power of social media, basically anyone in the world is available for you to ask to be your mentor.

What makes this Hard

This is hard. You need to be able to communicate in a compelling way why that person should spend their time mentoring a stranger. Can it work, Yes. Should this method be the only one you use, please don't. If all other methods don't work, should you try it. Heck Yes.

List of articles about mentorship that I found interesting

Why should we want a mentor

There is a reason why high performance athletes and successful business leaders always have coaches and mentors. The shortest path from struggling to being productive is advice from someone who has been where you are going. These successful individuals seek out help early and often because they recognize the value of mentorship. We can learn from them the following:

  1. Why do we need a mentor?
  2. How is that relationship formed?
  3. Tips to create an environment where the mentorship can be successful?

Read this article I wrote that goes into details about those topics: 15 Important Tips about Mentorship

My mentors

Over the last three years I have develop several relationships that have lead to mentorships.

  1. While learning to code, I used Meetup.com to find out about a local meetup called Code Connector. I started going to those meetups, engaging with other participants, and sharing what I knew. In time, the founder of the group started giving me advice, sharing freelance opportunities, and allowing me to give talks at the meetups. I met another developer who let me know of job opportunities that led to me being a teacher assistant for a tech boot-camp.
  2. While working as a teacher assistant for the tech boot camp, I got to know one of the teacher assistants with industry experience. He become a mentor in that he checks in on me every month with advice and pass on job opportunities.
  3. During that tech boot camp, several of the students became mentors of mine. They had talents that I didn't have and was willing to teach me the skills that I lacked.
  4. I volunteer as a leader for the Code Connector meetup group. This lead me to building a relationship with several other leaders and them becoming mentors.
  5. I follow a lot of people on social media to help me learn new skills. Everyday I spend at least ten minutes going through Twitter seeking technical resources to follow up on. I'm part of several Slack channels where I can engage with others about what ever issue I am having or just learn from their conversation. I'm a member of several Discord communities with the most recent one full of content creators. I have a front row seat to experts talking about the things I want to learn. I have a regular diet of tech Zoom meetups that have top tech companies developers give technical talks. I listen to the LinkedIn #GetHired video series. Finally, I have around twenty podcasts that I curate based on what I'm learning at the moment and to stay relevant on tech trends.

Summary

There are 7 ways to find a mentor:

  1. Join a tech community to have a genuine connection with someone that leads to a mentorship.
  2. Follow people on social media to be indirectly mentored through content.
  3. Impress a senior developer on a team project to the point they want to mentor you.
  4. Use a mentorship website or service to get a mentor assigned to you.
  5. Strive to impress your professor or instructor to mentor you.
  6. Build a relationship with advance classmates.
  7. Blindly message someone asking them to be a mentor. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Code Connector is a non-profit that organized tech meetups to help people start their journey into tech. You can join our daily conversations by clicking this link: Code Connector slack channel.

Bonus

I converted several blog posts similar to this one into a free e-book called "Advice for Breaking into Tech". The book summarizes advice from 700 developers about learning how to code and looking for your first job in tech into an easy-to-read narrative.
Click for your free Download

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