Finding a Mentor

It can be challenging find the right mentor. There are many formal mentoring programs available that can help match you with a mentor. However you can also find an informal mentor. Here is some guidance on how to go about finding a mentor on your own.

First, you will need to decide what kind of mentor you want. Is it someone you want general career advice from, someone you want to learn a specific skill from, someone you want as a confident? Once you figure out who you are looking for you can start your search. Here are some options for finding a mentor:

Look around you!

Start by looking at who is already around you. Is there someone in your firm? Is there someone you’ve met working on a case? Do you know anyone you would like to strengthen your relationship with?

Remember!

Search your memory for anyone who you’ve encountered in the past who inspired you.  A lawyer you heard speaking at a conference? A lawyer you observed at court?

Research!

If there is a specific area you are interested in, research people that are working in that area. Pay attention to the lawyer cited in a judgement that interests you or a legal blog or article you read.

Ask others!

Put the word out there that you are looking for a mentor. Ask your own network if they know anyone who fits with your mentor needs.

Once you’ve decided on who you’d like to reach out to, be brave and ask!

Find more than one mentor:

Build a your own law family. Different mentors can give you different types of support. It's easier to rely on multiple people than looking to one mentor to give you all the answers. Learn more about how to build your own law family by watching the law family video and filling in the mentor section of the Career Planning worksheet.

Reaching out through informational interviews is a great way to find a mentor. Although it may seem intimidating to contact someone you don’t know, established professionals are generally happy to make time to meet with interested up-and-comers. Here are some tips to consider when reaching out to professionals.

Choose the right mentor for you

I’ve found that an ideal mentor is someone who has achieved something that you would like to achieve but is also someone you enjoy spending time with.

Be concise

If you are reaching out to someone via e-mail, keep your message short and to the point. If the e-mail is too wordy or looks like a generic template, it will not make a good first impression and may even be ignored.

Show interest

Make sure to provide a brief background on who you are and why you’re reaching out. In addition to general statements like “I’d like to learn more about your firm” show that you’ve done some extra research to connect. For example,

“I read the decision on your recent case, {X v. X] and would love to hear your insights on employment law class actions” or “I was at the human rights conference last week and enjoyed your talk on procedural reforms.”

Be flexible and considerate

Everyone is busy. Structure your request so that the recipient has less work to do on their end. Suggest meeting places and times. For example:

“I was wondering if you would be inclined and have time for a [quick lunch, drink after work, 30-minute conversation over coffee] at [X place]. I’d suggest the week of [X] but my schedule is flexible. I’d really appreciate your time and will gladly pay the favour forward.”

Listen

Before your interview, take some time to craft some thoughtful questions and be sure to listen to their responses. Ask questions which will help you learn about the individual’s career path as well as their interests outside of the profession.

Follow up

In order to build a relationship, follow-up is key. After a meeting or phone call, be sure to send a quick email that includes a thank you note and a reminder of any next steps that were discussed. If you were provided with advice, send an e-mail a few months later to show that you’ve acted on their advice.

~Kemily HoTevlin Gleadle Curtis Employment Law Solutions