Every week I get messages from people on Instagram, asking if I will be their coding mentor. I don’t always have time to take on new mentees, but I do have some advice on how you can find one. In this article, I will give you some tips to help you find a mentor.
Think about your goals
First, you should think about why you need a mentor and what you hope to get from your relationship.
People often use “coding mentor” as a euphemism for “person that is going to teach me to code for free.”
No software engineer is going to spend their valuable time teaching you everything you need to know about programming for free. Yes, it is possible to find someone who will help you when you are stuck, but they aren’t going to spend hundreds of hours teaching you how to program for free without you even attempting to learn anything on your own.
So when you are approaching a potential mentor, it is much more effective to say something like, “Hi, my name is Cory. I’m currently reading the Self-Taught Programmer and working through the course as well. I’m looking for someone that can help answer a few questions when I get stuck.” then, “Hello, will you be my coding mentor?”
When you go with the second approach, most potential mentors assume you are asking them to teach you to code for free, which they are not interested in, rather than helping a self-starter when they get stuck.
Do you need one?
If all you need is someone to help you when you are stuck, maybe you don’t need a designated mentor.
New programmers ask questions and get help in the Self-Taught Programmers Facebook group every day, and I created a list of the best communities for new programmers that you can join as well. Before you decide you can’t start coding until you find a mentor, you should try learning on your own and asking help from one of these communities when you have a question.
Maybe in addition to getting help when you are stuck, you want a mentor to keep you motivated. In that case, you can try out a website like stickK. The idea is you set a goal, put up some money, and find someone to hold you accountable. If you accomplish your goal, you get your money back. If you don’t, your money gets donated to charity.
How to find a mentor
If, after thinking it through, you still feel you need a mentor, there are two ways I know of to get one.
The first is to join coding communities like those I mentioned earlier and post your questions when you are stuck. Eventually, you will notice the same people keep helping you. Hopefully, you will develop a relationship with them as they help you, and at some point, you can ask them if they would be interested in mentoring you.
The other method is to use a website like Code Mentor, which costs money but guarantees you a mentor. Yes, it is possible to find someone willing to meet with you weekly to help answer your questions, but it is far from guaranteed. There are far more people who want to learn to program than software engineers, who normally charge $50+ an hour for their time, willing to give that time away for free to help someone they just met learn how to code. With Code Mentor, you can pick a mentor and pay per session.
Learning to program is hard. I understand most people’s natural reaction is to say, “Help! I need a mentor.” However, you can learn to program on your own by choosing the right programming language, studying the right material, working hard, and getting help from a programming community when you are stuck.
That is not to say having a mentor is not helpful; it is. And it is possible to find someone willing to help mentor you for free. Just remember, there is a lot of demand for mentors, so you need to be patient and take your time. If you need a mentor right away, you can always use Code Mentor to get one on demand.
Best of luck!