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How to Court an Informal Mentor


Who do you turn to when you have questions about work/life balance, navigating career decisions, or developing new career skills? You might have a mentor you can turn to from a formal mentorship program at VA – but informal mentors can be great resources for your career development as well.

Here are some tips for building relationships with informal mentors.

You can have more than one

You should only have one formal mentor at a time, but you can (and should) consider having more than one informal mentor. In fact, you might already have a few informal mentors and not realize it.

Your informal mentor may be a colleague whose career path you’d like to follow. Another might be a friend whose communication skills you admire because she can effectively interact with anyone. And another might be a team member you look up to because he is well-dressed for every situation. If you consider someone an expert in a certain area who you can go to for advice, you can think of him or her as an informal mentor.

Choose the right people

Identify areas where you would like to improve, and think of people you know who can help you in those areas. Think outside your department or position. Sometimes choosing a person outside of your office or career field can give you a fresh perspective. Reaching out to those people can help you as well.

Prepare for discussions

Don’t let the “informal” label mislead you. Conversations with informal mentors still require preparation. Be ready to guide the conversation, ask thoughtful questions, and provide ideas on how your potential mentor can help you. The more you prepare, the more beneficial your conversations will be.

Want to learn more about all of the factors that go into building and maintaining a strong relationship with your mentor? Check out mentoring resources from MyCareer@VA.

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