“You NEED a mentor!” Sound familiar? So then you’ve also heard the anecdotes and research that supports the many benefits, both professionally and personally, from having a mentor?
Okay, okay — I’m not going to sell you again. I know you’re sold! YOU have a mentor! Congratulations! You answered the call to action but now the real work begins — for BOTH of you. Now that we’re on the level, let’s talk about how to get the most out of mentoring.
3 Ways to get the most out of your mentor
Be committed to the mentoring relationship and make it a priority. Agree on how often you want to meet and try to keep to it. You’re creating a relationship so small gestures of agreeing to meet for coffee, meetings, or lunch, and keeping them, are important, even if you’re not talking about “mentoring stuff.” Life happens, so reschedule when you need to, but make the investment in time and get to know each other. You’re building trust. It will pay off in dividends when you want to have some of the tough or difficult talks. You’ll need a mentor who can be real with you and tell it like it T-I-is. Plus, in order to reap benefits such as, defining goals and ways to achieve them, expanding your network, and getting professional guidance, a solid relationship is a must have.
Have a Game Plan
A good game plan outlines how often you want to meet, the duration of the mentoring commitment (nothing lasts forever), what you want to get mentored on, and what your objectives are. This help set expectations, and when the time comes, helps you evaluate the effectiveness of the mentor. A game plan also means coming to meetings with a few items or questions in mind to engage your mentor. Early in my career, I thought all I had to do was pick a mentor and show up. I didn’t have very successful mentoring relationships but I had “checked the box.” I realize now I didn’t have a game plan… and it was MY responsibility as the mentee to have one, not my mentor’s. I expected to come to our meetings and my mentor was to impart their wisdom on me for an hour every few weeks. I always left disappointed.
I was about ready to give up and find a new mentor when I inadvertently stumbled onto a revelation at one of our meetings. I had an industry article with me (actually research for another meeting all together) and it sparked a great conversation. My mentor was able to give me some historical context in terms of the industry, our company, and our competitors. It was information that helped me going into my next meeting and with the project that I was working on. That meeting totally changed how we worked together, but also my view on my role as a mentee! Its not enough to just show up. Mentees actually drive the mentoring relationship. Your mentor is just a passenger along for the ride, asking questions and coaching you along the way.
Get What You Give
As with all good relationships, your mentoring relationship should be a two way street. As the mentee, don’t make it “all you all the time.” Be genuine and sincere. Show that you are trustworthy. Be sure to ask your mentor “what’s up with you in your world” or “anything that I can help you out with?” The answer, particularly to the latter, may often be “oh, nothing, but thanks for asking.” Even if the answer is “no,” its important that the door be open. Don’t discount yourself — your mentor doesn’t have all the answers (and don’t expect them to, its not fair) sometimes YOU have the answer and your mentor is asking the questions or for your help.
Don’t cheat yourself, or your mentor, be prepared, active, and engaged! Do the work to get the rewards. You’re on your way to have an awesome mentoring relationship! What’s your favorite mentorship story?