Connecting with a mentor can be a huge benefit in your career. More and more companies are launching and expanding mentorship programs, so they are designating mentors, matching mentors, and establishing mentor-mentee relationships from the moment you join the company.
But for many, the assignment of a mentor is only a first step. Like a blind date, it can be awkward—only a toe in the water in an uncertain sea. As a mentee, how can you make the relationship successful? Especially if you’re new to a company or a role, you may not feel you have a lot of influence in the venture. In actuality, you can significantly contribute to creating the conditions for a great experience.
Many successful people attribute at least part of their success to having a mentor. The right mentor can provide advice and connections that help their mentee reach heights that would be impossible alone.
A mentor helps you build your skills as a leader, a strategist, a consultant or a manager. They can guide you toward making sound decisions that positively affect the trajectory of your career path or in gaining skills needed for your industry. In the entrepreneurial sector, a mentor can help you successfully guide your new business through the pitfalls inherent with being a start-up, including funding challenges, paperwork, finding clients, and delivering on projects, for example.
But, like every relationship, building and maintaining a successful mentor relationship isn’t effortless.
Mentorship requires intentional investments of time and energy; you get what you put in
Being a mentee is not a passive role. When you have a mentor, it’s your job to define your own goals, cultivate the relationship, seek out advice, attend meetings or events you’re invited to, and so on. Mentorship is not a “do it on the side” or “when I get time” job. It’s real hard work that requires dedication and commitment much like any other part of our job.
Apart from time being of paramount importance to succeed in a mentor-mentee relationship, it also requires a tremendous amount of energy to engage, guide, deal with the ups and downs and all possible human emotions that come into play when two people are trying to achieve something significant.
A true meeting of the minds requires true commitment to each other and their time. Set time boundaries, define protocol to cancel, agree on the medium to contact depending on the issue. It’s highly advisable that both mentor and mentee write down their commitments and refer to them from time to time. `
Form a personal connection, understand each other’s principles and values, strengths and weaknesses, what drives them and what they wish to achieve out of this relationship. Discuss shared values like integrity, mutual respect, openness, trust and active listening as the basis for all conversations.
As much as possible, take time out to engage in face-to-face conversation (video, in-person). It’s not enough to hear a person’s words. Their body language, facial expressions and emotions play a large role in understanding their true intent.
How long should a mentoring relationship last?
There is no one-size-fits-all relationship in the mentoring world. If the two of you are working together on your own, the relationship can last as long as is mutually beneficial. Some mentor-mentee relationships last a lifetime and often grow more equitable over time.
If you’re part of a more formal mentorship program, there may be time requirements you need to follow, so make sure you’re fully informed about your program. Knowing the guidelines also shows that you’re a good candidate for mentorship and that you’re taking the opportunity seriously. A good rule of thumb is to meet once a month for six months and then re-evaluate whether to continue together in your last couple of scheduled meetings.
What are the benefits of mentoring?
A good mentor relationship gives you a powerful resource for advice, strategy and a deeper understanding of the world you’re working in. That relationship can guide you through defining and understanding your job role, navigating any problems at work and empowering you to do your best work – which, in turn, can result in promotions in the corporate world or long-term business success in entrepreneurship.
At the same time, the relationship benefits the mentor, too, providing a way for them to feel heard and valued for their experience. The perspective provided by a mentor can elevate your career by helping you to be your best – if you’re willing to engage, listen, ask questions and cultivate the relationship over the long-term.
The journey itself is the reward
The mentor mentee relationship does not end once mentee achieves their desired goals. The deep bond formed during these years lasts forever. People remember good mentors and mentees throughout their life. They cite their examples when talking to others and draw inspiration from them when faced with challenging circumstances. Their paths may go separate ways but it’s the journey that stays with them forever. Remember, good mentees can become successful mentors one day. Do your best to create this beautiful relationship that sows the seeds for many more in future. I am excited to see you apply it in your work environment and in personal life.
Overall, know the relationship you have with your mentor is yours to shape and influence. It’s a context for plenty of learning — about tasks, roles, culture, and the network—and it can also be a great place for you to expand your views of what works best. Later, when you’re the mentor to a new mentee, you can apply all the best practices you’ve learned from the relationships you’ve built. To be a mentor makes you a more understanding human being. It helps you keep your mind young and your skills fresh. Successful people who don’t start to mentor others will over time lose touch with their own excellence. Mentoring someone connects you back to the original you who became so excellent.
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