Mentor-mentee relationships thrive when both contribute. If you have decided that you would benefit from a mentor relationship and are looking for some tips on being a great mentee, read on. Don’t be thinking of mentors as crusty academic types giving tough love in hierarchical situations. Mentor relationships have evolved a lot, and are now for everyone.
Download the ‘How to be a great mentee’ template here.
All types of people take on mentor and mentee relationships. Lucy worked at a large bank and had a mentor who really helped her return to work.
“A mentor can be anyone. It’s about helping to make others see a different perspective and be a better version of themselves. I returned to work after my first baby and lacked so much confidence,” says Lucy. “My mentor really helped me to define my career and where I wanted to go. I would go as far to say that they saved me in that first year and enabled me to move into a new direction.”
So what does a mentor actually do?
Having one allows you to focus on progressing your career and overcoming any specific work-related issues. A mentor can provide guidance, support and space for you to think, and give an outside perspective and honest feedback on areas such as:
- Career planning and progression
- Career advice about finding work-life harmony
- Development of new skills such as leadership or public speaking (which may lead to improved confidence)
- Broader perspective
- Exposure to different business parts and roles
Before you jump into securing a new mentor, it’s important to consider a few things:
- Be clear on why you want a mentor. It’s important to be clear about what you want to gain from the mentoring relationship and to have clear goals about what you want to achieve.
- Do you really have the time? For a mentoring relationship to be successful, you need to be able to commit and set aside at least 60 minutes every six to eight weeks plus some time for planning and out-of-meeting work. If you are time poor, would a casual coffee be enough?
- You need to drive it. The mentor will facilitate and support you but it is up to you to drive agendas, book meetings and manage the overall process. Remember, your mentor is busy.
- Trust: You need to trust your mentor and approach the relationship with a sense of openness. The most value occurs when you are willing to shareyour personal as well as your professional background.
If you have decided a mentor is for you, then you now need to find one.
This can be tricky, but ask your manager for support. Ask anyone you trust to help you find one. You will be surpised at what happens when you ask.
Once you have secured your new mentor, it is important to make this new relationship work for both of you.
Here are some of our tips:
- Take the time to think about your career goals and objectives. Be prepared to ask for specific guidance so it will be easier for your mentor to help you.
- Complete your development plan so your mentor really understands where you want to go and what your development needs are. Send it and a few dot points of what you want to cover to the mentor to make a great first impression
- Prepare before each session—mentoring is driven by the mentee.
- Take time at the end of each meeting to follow up, thank the mentor and develop agenda items for the next meeting.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your story: who you are, your personal circumstances, your achievements and what your priorities are.
- Use active listening skills and be careful not to interrupt, unless you need to clarify a point.
- Respect your mentor’s time, confidentiality and advice.
- Ask your mentor to set you challenging assignments.
- Take the initiative to ask for feedback. It can sometimes be hard to hear but is critical to your personal and professional growth and development.
- Demonstrate that you have followed advice or commitments at every opportunity.
Our questions and thought starters for your first meeting:
Getting to know each other
- What roles have you undertaken previously?
- What have you enjoyed most and least in your career?
- Tell me about your current role?
- What are the major challenges?
- What parts of the role do you find most satisfying?
- How often will we meet, where and for how long?
- How formal or informal would we like the meeting to be?
- How will we know our meetings are successful?
Questions for your mentor (just to get you started)
- How did you land your current role?
- How do you manage and spend most of your time?
- If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
- Looking back on your career, is there anything you would do differently?
- What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?
- Was there a job you applied for and really wanted, but were not successful?
- Think back to a few years ago. Did you envisage this is where you would be?
- How do you stay connected with the right people?
- Can you suggest other people in this organisation (or outside) that I should connect with?
- Where do you see my strengths and what should I focus on to improve?
- How would you define your brand?
- What do you feel I should focus on to progress my career?
- Can you give me some tips on how to improve my influencing skills?
- If a specific question comes up, can I follow up with you?