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Whether it is in one of LinkedIn’s project management discussion groups or in PMI’s community, one of the more frequent requests made by members is for mentoring. Sometimes the mentee has done a good job of articulating their needs which will increase their odds of finding a suitable mentor but this is the exception, not the rule.

Project management mentors are usually senior practitioners who tend to be quite busy, hence providing limited information almost guarantees that the request won’t be fulfilled in a timely fashion.

So before you post a request for a mentor, take the time to answer these five questions:

What are my objectives for the mentoring relationship?

This is a good case of where the S.M.A.R.T. test for objectives should be used – are they specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound?

This question will help you answer the next one.

Is the mentoring relationship I’m seeking short or long term?

This will help prospective mentors decide whether they are willing to commit for a longer period of time and will serve as a good sanity check on the achievability of your objectives.

The answers to these two questions might help you answer the next question.

Will I be better served with a mentor whom I can meet in person?

Depending on your objectives, you might find that geographic or temporal distance will significantly reduce the mentor’s ability to help you succeed such as intimate knowledge of the local business environment. Thankfully many PMI chapters have well established mentoring programs which might help you to connect with a local practitioner.

How much effort will my mentor need to commit to help me achieve my objectives?

You might think that you have found the perfect practitioner from a personality and experience perspective but if they are too busy to effectively support you, you may need to connect with someone that has more time but less experience or you might need to adjust your expectations of the mentor’s time commitment.

Finally, while many mentors provide their services on a voluntary basis, others might treat it as billable work.

Am I willing to pay for mentoring support, and if so, what is my budget?

If you don’t know what you want to get out of a mentoring relationship, no mentor can help you achieve your goals.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores).

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