15/06/2018 14:20 BST | Updated 10/07/2018 12:23 BST

How To Ask Someone To Be Your Backer

Making the most of a mentor

Success can be hard work and arguably even harder when you don’t have someone to back you up. Someone who offers advice and shares experiences can also be your critic or loudest cheerleader when required. Everyone can benefit from having a mentor in their lives.

Perhaps that’s why Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, famously asked Apple boss Steve Jobs for advice over the years, why Oprah Winfrey talks about how inspired she is by novelist Maya Angelou and why Jay Z played the much documented and pivotal role in Rihanna’s rise to fame and took Kanye West under his wing.

But how do you find the mentor who will help you achieve your best? Here are some tips to help you find the best backer for you and pluck up the courage to start a transformative relationship.

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Pick your person

Look to people who have the experience you’d like to reach in the next few years. This might be someone who already holds the role you aspire to as they will often be able to give you the guidance to help you carve a path towards your goal.

Choosing someone you like and respect and with whom you can build a real connection is important. There’s no point trying to emulate someone you don’t admire or can’t relate to.

Often the best mentoring relationships come when you have different skill sets, so be open-minded! For example, if the thought of public speaking fills you with dread but you know you need to work on this, then you might seek out a mentor who is a confident public speaker.

You’ll thrive best when you find a mentor with whom you can be honest about your worries and who can be honest with you (but still constructive and kind) in return. It’s only through frank conversations that you can learn and grow.

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Proximity is key

When you choose a mentor consider the access you will have to meeting face-to-face at regular intervals. Ideally, this person should be someone you already know and someone who’s committed to backing your success and can check in with you regularly when you need a sounding board.

 If your company has a mentorship programme, that’s an excellent starting point as participants are actively keen to mentor.

If not, it might be worth approaching someone in your own team, or in another department that you work closely with.

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Making overtures

Prepare an elevator pitch - about yourself and your future plans. Be sure to include how you think they can help you and why this potential mentor would be a perfect match for you. You don’t need to bamboozle them but you do need to show you’re keen and want to learn from them. You might start by telling them how much you’ve enjoyed the conversations you’ve had in the past and reference things that have impressed you, such as the speech they gave recently or the opinion piece they wrote.

Once you’re prepared, make sure to ask them in person rather than by email. That way you can read their body language and know if they are genuinely  interested.

Be honest about your expectations

It’s important in any relationship to be honest about your expectations. Be specific about the areas you’d like advice on and how often you’d like to meet but also offer to help in any way you can. The best mentoring relationships are a two-way street, not just about you-you-you.

Remember a good mentor will encourage you out of your comfort zone, help you to see a different side of an issue, find a solution to an ‘impossible’ problem and ultimately help you rise to new challenges.

When a mentor has your back on a professional and personal level, you can only grow in confidence.


American Express understands the importance of powerful backing. That’s why the company has joined forces with music legend Nile Rodgers and culinary innovator Gizzi Erskine, to launch Backed By, to give one budding musician and one food entrepreneur the chance to take their ideas to the next level. Keep an eye on Backed By for more on Nile and Gizzi’s backing experiences.

Promotor: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.