So you’ve found yourself a mentor. Congrats! Mentorship can benefit your personal and professional development in a variety of ways. Therefore, it’s an important relationship to sustain and cultivate. Here are some guidelines for getting the most out of your mentorship.
Be specific about what you are seeking from the mentor/mentee relationship, your goals and the time commitment required. Agreeing to the frequency of your conversations and the confidentiality of your discussions are both critical in setting boundaries.
Before you speak with your mentor, determine what you want to get out of your conversation in advance. Consider what questions you want to ask and what feedback you want from your mentor. For example, if you want feedback specific to your job search, you can ask your mentor to review your application materials and provide interview suggestions. If you are looking for advice on how to climb the ladder at your current company, ask your mentor about their career decisions and how they advanced.
Being prepared with specific questions and issues that you want to discuss with your mentor shows that you value their time, which is essential, according to Jarin Eisenberg, Florida Tech Major Gift Officer and Business Instructor. “Be mindful of the way you use your mentor’s time – don’t waste it and never forget to show your appreciation.”
Having a mentor provides the opportunity to learn new things. Staying curious and willing to go outside your comfort zone can help you get the most out of this relationship, writes Ashira Prossack for Forbes. For example, if your mentor suggests a networking event or online course for you to take, consider the opportunity, even if it falls outside your immediate area of expertise.
Ask What You Can Do
Even though you are supposed to be learning from your mentor, the relationship should be a two-way street. Eisenberg advises that you consider who in your network might be helpful to connect your mentor with. Or, if there is a charitable cause that matters to him or her, consider volunteering to show your appreciation.
Be Coachable and Accept Feedback
Since you have a mentor, that means you are open to someone guiding you and providing you with direction. Katherine Klein, a management professor at Wharton Business School, says that mentees want “a sounding board and a place where it’s safe to be vulnerable and get career advice.” The mentor/mentee relationship is where you can let your guard down and get honest feedback. Demonstrating in your conversations and work that you’re coachable and passionate shows that you make their mentorship worth their while.
Don’t Take Advantage
While your mentor is bringing his or her experience, skills and network to the table, you can’t expect your mentor to do all of the work. For example, while he or she won’t write your resume for you, they can help you formulate it. Remember to be polite and appreciative of your mentor, as they are volunteering their time to help you.
Have More Than One Mentor
Placing all of your mentoring expectations on one person can be a big ask. Instead, expect that you will have multiple mentors throughout your career, possibly several at the same time.
Jane Allen, Chief Diversity Officer at Deloitte, told Forbes that, “You don’t have to hang your hat on just one critical mentor….I think what’s critical is that you don’t need one magical person or magic bullet. It can be many mentoring moments, as opposed to a person. And think about it in the evolution of your career.”
You may have a workplace mentor that you work with every day, and then some mentors in your industry with whom you get coffee every once in a while. Eisenberg says, “Don’t limit yourself. Create an advisory board of individuals who are invested in seeing you be successful who have a network different than your own, and different from each other. Studies suggest that ‘weak ties,’ more acquaintance than friend, are incredibly valuable in the workforce and play a key role in opening up opportunities.”
Transition to Mutual Mentorship
After you have reached your goals, you should still maintain your relationship. At this point, you can transition to a mutual mentorship, in which you help each other with networking, projects and other career aspects. Many of Eisenberg’s mentorships are along these lines:
“Several of the seats on my mentor advisory board are held by my peers and, as the studies suggest, they have proved to be an invaluable resource. We tell each other about different community events, introduce each other to people that might be helpful in achieving one another’s goals, provide a support system for one another, and help each other navigate the politics and the personal of being a young professional.”
Keep In Touch
As you progress through your career, you may not need to rely on your mentor as much. However, it’s important to stay in contact with your mentor and maintain the relationship, according to Eisenberg:
“Stay in touch – as all relationships, your frequency of seeing each other and speaking may ebb and flow as life enviably changes. Don’t forget to send a card or note now and then and let me know what you are up to.”