Start By Being the Right Mentee
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me to be their mentor and, when I asked what they were looking to accomplish, I was met with a blank stare.
I guess they were just looking for me to start espousing wisdom to help get their career to the next level. But mentoring doesn’t work that way. To find a great mentor, start by being a rock star mentee.
Four Ways to Be a Better Mentee
Just like everything else in your career, the more you put in, the more you get out. Show up with a plan to launch an enriching relationship.
1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish
Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together.
Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn?
Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress.
Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organisation or you want support in expanding your network with a few key introductions.
As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you are both clear in your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.
2. Be Truly Open to Feedback
If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you.
Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.
3. Offer to Help
The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal – both people grow in the process.
Ask what you can do to be helpful to them – even if it means rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project of theirs.
4. Bring Conversation Starters
The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward if you don’t know your mentor very well. It can be good to come with a few 'starter' questions, such as:
- What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organisation? Why?
- How can I best prepare to add the most value?
- What are the things that excite and energise you about your work here?
- What are the things that drain or frustrate you the most?
- What have you done in order to reduce that frustration?
- What are some of your outside interests? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
- What are the skills and behaviours you think are required to be successful in my role? How can I learn those?
- What skills and behaviours have helped you be successful here?
- What do you know now that you wish you had learnt sooner?
The best mentoring relationships are grounded in deep trust – and that takes time. Be patient and invest the time it takes to truly get to know and support one another.
Editor's note: Remember that landing the best mentors in the world will do you no good if you don't have the right mindset to learn. Check out this article on learning how to be teachable.