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It is difficult for me to articulate the benefits I've received by simply asking a senior developer for advice with regards to a specific aspect of my craft. More than just telling me the "correct way to do things," often times, they fill this essential gap that can't be filled by looking through tutorials or articles: that we don't know what we don't know, and how can we search for a feautere/language/technique/idiom/pattern to learn more about it when we don't know it exists or the problem it solves? Also, I found it particularly useful to learn how to be more pragmatic than theoretical at my job as a developer, and I enjoy it a lot more because of this.

As a consequence of this, I consider it absolutely essential that I have a mentor (I'm still a junior dev) at any potential job I get in the near future, at least.

How do I express to my potential employer that I am looking for mentorship from their more senior team members, without sounding like my skills are lacking or that I'm not independent?

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Meetings, meetings, meetings

  • If you have any concerns about your workplace, always vocalize your issues to HR or your manager.
  • If you would like more help from a senior developer, definitely make meetings with them to help you as opposed to just dropping by their office. It is important for them to get to know to understand what they can help you with.
  • If your supervisor does not have time or does not want to, again, talk to HR. They can point you in the direction of someone who does have time or they will talk to management about a mentor for you.

Becoming friends

  • A senior developer will be more inclined to help you if they like you! Try to hang out with him during lunch and perhaps weave some coding conversations in there. Hopefully they love what they do and should be happy to talk to you about it.

  • They've been in the same position that you are in and have also needed a mentor/teacher in the past. Don't explicitly say that you want a mentor but if you feel comfortable, spend one on one time with them and ask any questions that you might have.

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    I'm not sure this answers the specific question of how to present the desire for a mentor to an interviewer or prospective employer. It's certainly good advice for pursuing such a benefactor at an existing employer, but OP seems to be asking specific to a prospective new employer during the interview phase. – Joel Etherton Aug 28 '15 at 18:41
  • @JoelEtherton agreed. While this is a good answer for the existing employer, my question was about prospective employers – AwesomeSauce Aug 29 '15 at 12:42
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How do I express to my potential employer that I am looking for mentorship from their more senior team members, without sounding like my skills are lacking or that I'm not independent?

Mentorship directly may get lip service that I'd likely suggest backing up a bit and asking about the environment. How many developers are in the team? How much interaction do they have? Does the company use pair programming? There are some areas where in getting the number or a yes and no answer could be useful. If you are talking with a developer in the company, then I'd ask about mentors to see if they are walking the talk here as those already in the company could be a useful gauge where you may want to pay more attention to how things are said rather than what is said.

Thus, I'd be inclined to do some work in writing out what work environment you prefer and then work with recruiters that could help provide that situation rather than trying to do it all alone.

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Leah gives some great advice. These are great steps to take once your inside the company.

If you don't have an offer yet, then the best thing to do is stay quiet. Interviewing has two stages, the interview process and the offer process.

During the interview process the company is completely in control. They are looking for a reason as to why you are not a good fit. During this time you need to focus on answering their questions and your questions should be focused on reinforcing your fit (things like asking how your role will help the interviewer, what are major technical challenges you would be working on, etc.)

If you get to the offer stage, then they've decided they want you. This is the point where you can ask about benefits. That would include asking about formal or informal mentorship programs.

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Your best bet is not to try to get a mentor. I puts a lot of pressure on that individual and commitment. Just ask lots of questions and seek advice - not from juat the one person.

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    If a person can't handle the simple pressure of mentoring an individual then it's simply a poor choice of a mentor. It's not an indicator that having a single mentor is a bad idea. – Joel Etherton Aug 28 '15 at 18:40
  • Being a mentor is a poisoned chalice with little reward for the mentor. Most sane people avoid being a mentor. Tend to reflect bad o your productivity – Ed Heal Aug 28 '15 at 19:33
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    I respectfully disagree with you. I've personally been a mentor to several developing software engineers, and I found each experience rewarding in its own way. If it means I'm insane then someone lock me away. – Joel Etherton Aug 28 '15 at 19:41
  • I found it personally rewarding but it has been detrimental to my career. Tend to spend lots of time doing the mentor bit and lose focus on your objectives – Ed Heal Aug 28 '15 at 19:54
  • But that may not be true for others – Ed Heal Aug 28 '15 at 19:54

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