In every mentorship, it’s often assumed (even expected) that the mentor should be the person calling the shots. However, if you think back to some of the greatest mentorships in history, you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common: the mentee was usually the one driving the relationship — and there’s a reason for that. Mentors are very busy people, which means they probably have better things to worry about than helping you succeed in your career. It’s up to you to make sure they hold up their end of the bargain. But how exactly do you do that?
As a mentee, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your mentor as an authority figure. You may feel inclined to sit back, relax, and let your mentor take the wheel. But if you really want to get the most out of your LevelNext experience, you need to start thinking of your mentorship as a two-way street. Here are some tips for how you can start making every minute with your mentor count.
Set Reasonable Expectations
The first step to building a strong mentoring relationship is to go in with the right expectations for what your mentor is and is not. Under the Oxford Dictionary, a mentor is a person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time. In your case, this could be anyone who provides you with the tools, guidance, support, and feedback you need to succeed in your career. However, a mentor is NOT a sponsor or boss. This is important to remember as you start setting expectations and forming relationships with mentors. At the end of the day, they are here to share their knowledge and experience with you, not give you a job or money.
The biggest mistake you can make going into a mentoring relationship is not setting specific goals beforehand. In order to avoid wasting everyone’s time, make sure to ask yourself the hard questions. What do you hope to accomplish? What made you seek out a mentor in the first place? A lot of struggling professionals often say they need someone who can help guide them, but if you don’t have a roadmap for where you want them to guide you to, you’re not going to get a lot of value out of that relationship. Do you actually want a mentor, or are you really looking for someone who can sponsor you or give you connections? Knowing what you need is the first step — finding the right person is the second.
Because mentors’ time is usually limited, you’ll more than likely be getting a lot of information thrown your way at once throughout your mentorship. That’s why it is crucial for you to practice active listening at all times. Avoid getting overwhelmed by taking notes on your mentor’s guidance, experiences, and feedback. When speaking with your mentor, don’t feel the need to write down every word they say. Instead, take the time to listen and comprehend while also summarizing their key points. Show them that you value their time by making eye contact and asking relevant follow up questions. If appropriate, you can even ask to record your meetings in order to avoid missing any insights.
Attend And Set Meetings Frequently
It may sound obvious, but the key to maintaining a successful mentoring relationship is to set and attend meetings with your mentor as much as possible. You can email back and forth all day, but in order to get the most out of this experience, you need to be able to talk with your mentor one on one in either a physical or virtual setting at least once a week. If you don’t, you’ll likely never move past the surface level conversations, which — while useful — don’t offer the same kind of insights and benefits as a face-to-face conversation. Suggest a few different days and times you are available on a weekly basis and let your mentor decide which one works best. If circumstances arise where you need to miss a meeting, make sure you let your mentor know well in advance in order to avoid wasting their time.