How to Write a Thank You Letter to a Mentor
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- When Is the Right Time to Send a Letter?
- What Form Can a Thank You Letter to Your Mentor Take?
- How to Write a Mentor Thank You Letter
- Final Thoughts
A mentor relationship is built when you are advised and assisted by an experienced professional who is further along in their career.
It can be set up through a formal program or simply by requesting regular meetings with a colleague you admire who can help your development.
Either way, a mentor is usually giving their energy and dedication to you on a voluntary basis, so thanking them goes a long way towards validating their efforts.
If a mentorship continues over a period of years, you may thank them multiple times, and in different ways.
If you’ve been lucky enough to benefit from mentorship, a strong way to thank them is to write a letter acknowledging how their valuable time and support has impacted you.
Whether you’ve just graduated, or even if you’re further down the line, getting into the knack of sending thank you messages is a powerful habit to form.
It’s polite as well as professional to send thank you letters; appreciating people for their attention is a skill that will stand you in good stead over the course of your career.
A letter or email is usually enough to show your gratitude, though you may also want to give an appropriate gift too.
Mentors usually choose to help people who might benefit from their expertise, but because it takes time and effort, sending them a proper thank you shows you understand their value.
You can acknowledge the importance of your mentor on a regular basis with thank you letters and ensure that the relationship stays warm long into the future, even if it changes format from formal to casual.
Sometimes you might send a thank you letter because of a special occasion, like the anniversary of your mentorship beginning.
In another situation, you may send a thank you letter because your formal mentorship program has come to an end.
Another reason might be that you’ve finished one chapter with your mentor and are looking forward to starting a new one.
For example, you might be moving from student life to the working world as a graduate, and it feels appropriate to thank your mentor and mark this change in the stages of life.
There are multiple reasons to thank a mentor for their time. Even if it’s been a while since you’ve seen them, you could use a thank you letter as an excuse to reconnect.
Whatever the reason, it’s worth taking the time to write a thoughtful thank you letter to your mentor. Appreciating their efforts will also make you more mindful of other places you have received support in your life and perhaps even inspire you to offer some help in return.
While a hand-written note shows a special touch, an email will also do the job when you’re thanking your mentor.
A printed letter is more formal, though, and might feel best, depending on the situation and your mentor’s company culture.
If you do hand write your thank you letter, it will feel more personal to receive and that can be heartwarming for both of you. Do make sure your handwriting is on point if you take this route, though, and use good quality paper and ink.
If you feel your mentor has really gone above and beyond, you might want to include a gift for them too. It’s not expected, but it will definitely make your gratitude more memorable.
A great gift would be something that shows professionalism but also a warm, personal touch. Things to consider might include:
- A fountain pen
- A paperweight
- A hand-bound journal
The better you know your mentor, the easier it will be to pick a gift for them that shows your connection and appreciation.
In terms of the letter or email you write, make sure you take the time to get it right – remember your soft skills are being displayed here.
A formal structure might seem most appropriate to you, and the next section breaks down a typical format.
Most mentor–mentee relationships are quite professional in context and fall under the umbrella of businesslike. In these cases, a fairly similar, fact-based approach works well and the template section shows you two examples for this.
There might be occasions, though, where the mentor-mentee relationship becomes more casual and friendly in nature; in situations like this, a thank you letter might be written in a warmer way and include personal touches.
In the template section you will also see one example of a thank you letter for this kind of mentor–mentee friendship.
This section goes through the core components of a thank you letter and the purpose of each. If you want to call upon your mentor in the future, it also helps to set that up in your letter with clear communication laying out your hopes.
Beginning your letter is fairly straightforward. Start with ‘Dear X’.
Even if you’ve gotten into the habit of writing ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ in your regular correspondence, it’s best to keep this specific thank you letter a bit more formal.
In most situations, using your mentor’s first name is fine, especially if they have asked you to do so previously.
If, on the other hand, you have a relationship with a professor or teacher whom you normally address as ‘Dr’ or ‘Ms X’, then it’s best to stick with that approach.
Your mentor is likely to be a really busy person. Make their life easier by telling them exactly what you’re writing about up front.
In an email, it’s best practice to make the subject line really clear.
In a printed letter, make sure the first sentence is quick and easy to scan – or even in bold – so they get the purpose of your correspondence right away.
If there’s a particular purpose for your letter, you can mention that upfront. For example, you may have got a new job – or perhaps your mentorship has come to an end, and it feels like the right time to express your thanks.
While any thank you is nice to hear, it’s much more impactful for your mentor if you say exactly how they’ve helped you.
When there are concrete results, like getting a job or promotion you were after because of your mentor’s help, make sure you specify. It’s brilliant for them to hear how they have made a real difference for you.
Avoid generalities; they are easily forgotten. If you want your letter to be memorable, tell a story with vivid imagery that reveals your arc or growth. A special memory is even more valued if it’s connected personally via a powerful narrative.
An example of how to make your note specific is to refer to actual advice your mentor may have given you.
So you might say:
When you gave me breathing tips for public speaking, it made a huge difference to me on the day of my big speech.
The conference room was so large and daunting that I would have panicked without those exercises you suggested. I was able to deliver my key points without wavering and it felt really powerful, knowing I had your valuable support behind me.
Make sure the ending of your letter summarizes what you’re trying to say. Remember to showcase your personality and positivity so that they’re left with a lasting memory of you that stands out.
Thank your mentor again and perhaps offer a way to help ‘pay it forward’ if that feels appropriate.
Perhaps they have a child applying to university for the subject that you yourself studied; in that case, offering some advice for them might be a great idea.
This is your chance to leave things set up for future collaboration or even just to invite them to maintain some kind of ongoing relationship with you.
Chances are you will be the one to initiate contact if you do keep in touch, so this lets them know what to expect.
Finishing the letter with a strong ending is powerful. It’s what will be remembered most, so make sure you close out with impact and enthusiasm.
Here are a few templates you can use to write a thank you letter. The first two are quite formal and businesslike in nature, while the last one is more personal and friendly – appropriate for when friendship has developed beyond the normal mentor-mentee relationship.
In general, we would advise keeping your letters fairly brief, even if you’re looking for opportunities for career development.
While it’s lovely to reminisce, focus mainly on hitting the key points and then leaving the door open to invite future communications.
Dear [Name of mentor],
I am writing to thank you for taking the time to give me advice about [specific topic].
Since our meetings I have reflected on our discussions, learned more and executed [specific actions].
Your mentorship was invaluable in [results achieved]. I really appreciate you for your honesty, feedback and [other qualities you admire about them].
I hope one day to ‘pay it forward’ and become as powerful a mentor to someone else, as you’ve been to me. If you think of anyone I could help, do send them my details.
I would like to keep in touch and hope we meet again.
Please let me know if that suits you.
Dear [Name of mentor],
Thank you for your mentorship; it has meant a great deal to me, especially as I know how busy you are. I admire you so much for [ways in which they stand out].
Your support has helped me learn [specific skills or competencies].
I was able to achieve [results obtained] because of you and I’m very grateful for that.
I hope the attached gift shows you how much I appreciated the time you generously spent with me. It made me think of you because [thoughtful observation or memory].
It was an honor to work with you and I hope to do so again in future.
Dear [Name of mentor],
This note is to thank you wholeheartedly for taking the time to work with me on [specific topic].
I’ve really appreciated our meaningful discussions and have learnt so much from you, including [specific actions].
Over our time together, I’ve improved and worked on [results achieved]. I could not have done it without your incredible support.
I feel like we built great rapport and admire you so much for your kindness, warmth and [skills]. I hope to emulate those in future.
I know our official mentorship program ends here, but I hope we can continue our friendship. Please let me know if I can ever repay your time or if you need help with any of your projects. I look forward to keeping in touch.
If you’ve had a great mentor, it’s worth keeping an ongoing relationship and nurturing it, even if it takes on a different format.
A thank you letter can set the tone for the future, and appreciates the time and effort your mentor has put in to date.
Honoring a specific memory in your thank you letter is also a way to cement the connection you have made. It makes it more likely that they will treasure your thank you note and reminisce fondly upon the time you spent together.
You can gain a reputation for courteous and professional behavior in an industry if you learn the basics of thank you letters and business communication.
Treating others with respect is important and sending these kinds of letters to mentors and other people who have helped you, demonstrates transferable skills that will make you stand out head and shoulders above the crowd.