How to Request for Mentorship through Cold Email

cold email for mentorship

All the self-help books and blogs agree: having a mentor can have a lot of great benefits for your professional life. If you want to jumpstart your career right or move up the ladder faster, it seems like working with a mentor is the right way to go.

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But what the self-help gurus do not tell you is just how difficult it can be to find a mentor. Maybe that is because looking for one person to lead you through all your career woes is not the right approach.

Instead, experts say that it is better to seek advice from various people in different specialties. When a problem comes up, you can then contact the person who you know might be the best at tackling that particular issue. But that still does not explain how you can go about getting in touch with these mentors.

Surprisingly, the answer lies in the humble cold email.

Reaching out to influential people that you admire is an excellent career strategy. Getting to actually speak with or meet them can change the course of your professional life. This is because you may get access to inspiration, advice, and even opportunities that will help your career grow.

The only problem is that initiating this vital contact through cold email can be quite intimidating. What if they are too busy? What if your mentor-to-be says no?

But the one thing you should realize is that successful people will always make time to take talented professionals under their wing. Their success is most likely due to someone else mentoring them too, so many are eager to pay it forward.

But how you connect with these influential people – who are, most likely, total strangers – is just as important as the benefits those relationships will give you.

Pulling off the initial contact through cold email requires a perfect pitch. This will include a lot of elements: a compelling subject line, winning introduction, and a request that is not too vague or involving. But it should also have something that so many people overlook in these cases – a small taste of what you can offer in return.

The truth is that most cold emails get deleted. This is usually because the sender asks for too much, whether it is time or commitment. For example, asking for a job from the get-go is the wrong way to go. Why should they go through so much effort for a virtual stranger?

On the other hand, others have attributed a lot of their success to cold email. What could explain these very different reactions to the same communication method?

In a nutshell, great cold emails get the recipient invested and make them care about your success

How to Request for Mentorship through Cold Email

Table of Contents

What to look for in a Mentor?

As with most things in life, finding a mentor is a process that should take time and a lot of self-reflection.

What would you like to gain from mentorship?

Do you want to go up the ranks at your current firm or find a new job?

Do you want to start a business and do not know the first thing about?

Whatever the case, identifying this main goal will determine the kind of people you will approach. Here are other things to look out for:

1. Look for specific shared interests

Your first step should be to find out what you have in common with each potential mentor. This could be anything from a past job to a current hobby. The only way to find this out is by studying the potential mentor.

Take a look at their company profile, website or personal blog, and social media profiles. Any similarities that you note will help you make your email more personal, relevant, and relatable.

2. Search for those who have been there

Take it a step further and seek out people who have tackled a similar dilemma recently. If you are an entrepreneur who has just made their first hire, it will be much easier to learn how to be a good manager from someone who also started doing so just one year ago.

The point here is that your list of mentors does not have to be full of big-name executives only. Up-and coming professionals and entrepreneurs can also make for very helpful confidantes.

After narrowing down your list, you can then start looking for their email addresses. But this does not have to be as difficult or tiring as you think!

You can use services like RooJet to easily find the email address of any contact and add them to your cold email campaign automatically. With this, all you have to worry about now is crafting the perfect mentorship email

Asking for Mentorship through Cold Email: the Do’s and Don’ts

Writing a cold email to any powerful or successful person can be a scary prospect. This is especially true if you are just starting off up the career ladder or if you are still relatively unknown entrepreneur. But the question that should always be on your mind is: what do you have to lose? The worst thing they could say is no!

The truth of the matter is that, in order to achieve your dreams, you will need the help of mentors. You will need advice and inspiration from people who have been there, done all that, and found success along the way.  Are you really going to let one simple email stand in the way of that? But before you hit send, take note of these cold email do’s and don’ts.

1. Ask for Advice, Not Money (or a Job!)

Science has proven that, at their core, people want to help others. Think about it: most of the people you admire had to have started somewhere. So who helped them get to their current level of success?

Chances are, they most likely had a mentor who gave them advice and helped them along the way. That could explain why people at the top always seem eager to impart their knowledge.

So, the best way to approach any request for mentorship is to ask for advice. Every other person that contacts them wants something, so it will be easy for your request to stand out.

2. Show your Passion

If you are genuinely enthusiastic about a particular company or industry, show it!

Potential mentors love nothing more than reading emails from people who are so passionate about their careers that it motivates them too. Your passion will also prove that you have confidence and drive, showing that you deserve to be working with them.

The other upside is that your enthusiasm will ultimately make recipients feel obliged to get back to you with the same level of interest.

3. Make it Snappy!

Any mentorship email should always be short and get straight to the point. Influential people do not have the time to read emails that are too long.

Instead, grab their attention by getting to the point quickly within the first two sentences. This will compel the recipient to read more and even respond to you. If you want more tips on how to do this, read our in-depth post here.

4. Make it Personal

Before you even start crafting any request for mentorship, you must keep in mind that you are reaching out to someone who knows next to nothing about you. So, the primary goal of any first email is to make sure that the recipient has a good sense of your character and personality by the time they finish reading it.

That is why using email templates verbatim is a big no-no. Studies have shown that the only way to craft a great cold email is through personalization.

To do this, avoid sending out one standard email to everyone on your contact list. High-level executives and entrepreneurs receive hundreds of cold email every single day, so they can sniff out the generic ones right away.

Instead of a “me” focused message, make it all about them. To learn more about personalizing cold emails for optimal results, you can read our post about it here.

5. Do your Research

The only way to send a personalized cold email is by

  • Knowing about the recipient.

  • What do they do?

  • What are their interests?

  • What challenges do they face?

The only way to get this right is by doing your research.  Anyone who receives an email that is personalized to their specific situation will appreciate the time it took you to do your homework. It shows that you actually care about them as a person, not just what you can get out of a potential working relationship with them.

Research also gives you the chance to highlight any common interests that you share with the recipient. This, in turn, will pique their curiosity and increase the odds of a reply. You can say something like:

“I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you also majored in (relevant field). I am also in the XYZ sector and would like to specialize in (mention a specific specialization shared by the potential mentor). I was wondering if you had any advice on what it takes to succeed in (the relevant field).”

6. Consider the Ask

The ask is the most crucial part of any cold email. It could actually make or break your entire hunt for good mentors. While it should always be very specific, never ask for something that would require a lot of time and commitment from the recipient.

The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the potential mentor to get back to you with what you need.

If you have done the first email right, you will start a meaningful conversation and get the chance to ask for more down the line – when the recipient is more invested in you.

It is also very important to avoid asking someone for anything that they are paid to do. For example, you might be reaching out to someone who makes a living from consulting in – say – writing books. Asking them to give you free advice on your new publication would be in very bad taste.

Essentially, you would be asking them to give away their hard-earned expertise for free! This is a huge no-no, especially when you are reaching out to entrepreneurs and self-employed experts.

Now that we have highlighted all the basics, you can move on to the next step and actually start crafting your email letter for mentorship. Here are a few tips to help you along every step of the way:

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Use a Compelling Subject Line

An email’s subject line acts as a preview of what to expect in the rest of the email. It can be really tricky getting this right, especially for a cold email.

This is because you have to be intriguing enough to entice the potential mentor to open your email and read more, but not give away too much that they dismiss it off the bat.

If you want to learn how to strike this delicate balance, read more on how to craft the perfect email subject lines here.

But the important thing is to keep your subject lines short but specific and charming. A great way to do this is by referencing something they do not see all the time in their inbox. Instead of saying something like (“Important!!!”)’, you can refer to some work that they have done in the past (“Inspired by your article on XYZ”).

And it is even better if you have a mutual contact, especially if it is someone that the recipient already has a positive relationship with. Such a connection would give you a solid and indisputable way in.

Reference Something Specific

Start talking specifics as soon as you get into the actual body of the mentorship email. If your “excuse” for contact is a mutual contact, make sure that you mention that in the first paragraph.

If you do not have this, that’s okay! You can focus on specific aspects of their work that have inspired or impacted you in some way.

Have they written an article that you enjoyed?

Or have they made some strategic business moves that you found particularly impressive?

Whatever the case, make sure to include a specific reference that will show the recipient that you have done your homework.

Beyond that, it is also important to mention anything that you have in common with this person. And you do not have to focus on just professional interests! You might have the same hobbies – anything from traveling, to music and food. Or, you could both be from the same home town or school (even rival schools for that matter!). Basically, you can use any tidbits that you gained from normal research to highlight a connection and establish rapport.

That said, your most powerful trick will be honesty and a genuine desire to establish a meaningful connection. That always shines through in your emails and – hopefully – when you finally meet.

Make the Ask

If people do not know what you want, they cannot help you. It is as simple as that.

So, if you are looking for someone to mentor you in business or entrepreneurship, then just say that. If you want to schedule a call or a face-to-face meeting, then make sure to include that information. You might not end up getting exactly what you want, but it is far better than worrying about what you have not asked for.

At this point, it is vital to remember that your potential mentor is very busy running their business – the very reason you want to connect with them in the first place.

So, they might not have time to honor any big requests and could end up dismissing your email just because of that. Instead, it is better to give them an easy out that will not make things awkward.

For example, you can say something like:

“I’ve recently reached a stage in my career where I’d like to specialize in (specific mention). I’ve always admired how you handle yourself as a professional and deeply respect your (mention a specific trait), so I was wondering if you would be willing to mentor me.

I would be really honored if you could meet with me once a month. But I understand that you are a really busy person. If this is not possible, would you be able to answer some questions over the phone?”

This approach makes it really easy for the recipient to consider your request. You might not get the once-a-month meetings, but you will still end up with something substantial. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. You can read more on how to craft the perfect ask here.

Say Thank You

Always say thank you, both at the end of your first email and anytime you get a response. As much as people love helping others out, they also want to feel that their effort is appreciated. Thanking potential mentors for their time is the best way to establish a long-term relationship with the recipient.

Request for Mentorship Letter Sample

With all this in mind, it is now time to show you how the perfect mentorship email should look like. If you do not have a mutual connection, you can send something like this:

Subject: Inspired by your tweet/post/article on (mention specific topic)

Hi (First Name of Potential Mentor),

I have always been an avid follower of (potential mentor’s blog/social profile) because I love reading your thoughts on everything (specific field, like entrepreneurship). I especially loved your post/tweet/article on (specific topic). I shared it with a few of my friends who have been facing the same challenge, and they just told me they would start subscribing to/following you immediately.

I have reached a stage in my career where I want to specialize in (specific mention). Since I have always admired the way you handle yourself as a professional and respect your (specific mention), I was wondering if you would be willing to mentor me.

I’d love if I could meet with you once a month to get your insights and advice. But I understand that you’re a really busy person, so this might not be possible. If it isn’t, would you be able to answer some questions over the phone?  

Your input would be greatly appreciated, and I will gladly pay it forward. Thank you for your time.


(Your name).

On the other hand, you could be contacting someone that was recommended by a mutual connection. In that case, your email could look like this:

Subject: (Name of Mutual Contact) suggested I get in touch

Hi (Name of Potential Mentor).

I’m (your name) from (your company, university, or college). (Name of mutual contact) suggested that I get in touch with you to schedule an informal meeting.

I have been working in the (relevant mention) industry for the past X years. Recently, I have been thinking seriously about applying my skills in (briefly explain new career path). I’m especially interested in (mention relevant field).

I’m sure you’re very busy, but I was wondering if you would have some time for a quiet 30-minute conversation on (specify date and time at least two weeks out) over lunch or coffee at (suggest a specific spot that is not too far from their office). I would love the chance to ask you some questions about how you started out and how your career has evolved over time.

I would really appreciate your input.


(Your name).

Wrapping Up

Actively seeking a mentor is one of the best things you can do for your professional life. Connecting with potential mentors via email is a great way to establish meaningful, long-term relationships.

You can use these tips to start creating mentorship emails that will help you get your foot in the door. Do you have any other helpful suggestions or experiences that could be useful when reaching out to mentors? Don’t forget to leave them in the comment section below.

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