How to be an Effective Mentee – Part 2
Last week I wrote about the basics of mentoring – what the benefits are, who should be a mentor, who should be a mentee and topics that can be covered during mentoring sessions. In this week’s blog post I will share with you steps you can take to be an effective mentee. In a professional business mentoring relationship, it really is the responsibility of the mentee to make sure that there is a proper structure in place and that the mentoring adds as little burden as possible to the mentor.
1. Select the right mentor
The first and most important step is to select the right mentor. Some people say that if you are a woman you should have a female mentor, that you should select someone from the same organization, or, that you should find someone that complements your weaknesses. I don’t believe it needs to be that limited, instead, I recommend you select a mentor based on the following:
- Know what your goal is – Before you can select a mentor you need to know what the goal is with the mentoring relationship and what areas you are seeking to develop. Have you recently transitioned into a new industry and looking for someone that can guide you? Are you a people manager and looking for ways to develop your management skills? Have you recently started your own company and seeking entrepreneurial guidance? Do you feel stuck in your career and looking for someone who can help you find your way? When this is clear to you, you know where to start looking.
- Pick someone you admire – You should pick someone whom you’d be delighted if he or she said yes when asked to mentor you. Pick someone you will be willing to work hard for. Don’t be afraid of asking someone higher in the organization or someone senior in another organization. Select someone you admire and respect.
- Pick someone you are comfortable with –Even if you admire someone in a work context, the person might have a terrible personality – he or she might be abrasive, patronizing or simply rude. A mentoring relationship should be something you enjoy – you should look forward to the meetings. Make sure to select a mentor with a good personality that you are comfortable with.
2. Be prepared for a “No”
Asking someone to mentor you can be a bit nervous; you might feel that you are putting yourself on the line. You need to be prepared for a “No”. Mentoring someone is a big commitment and it is very likely that the experienced business professional you admire and want as your mentor is already mentoring other people, or he or she might not think that you are a good fit. Don’t’ be discouraged by this, keep looking and eventually you will find the right mentor who will be glad to have you as their mentee.
3. Schedule the mentoring meetings
If the person you admire and respect has agreed to mentor you, you should feel honored and make sure to fulfill your part and be an effective mentee. It is your responsibility to plan and schedule meetings with your mentor. You will need to be flexible since your mentor is probably a very busy person. During the first session you should propose a meeting frequency and timings that suit you both, make sure to be accommodating. When you have agreed on the date and time for your meeting/meetings, send meeting requests ahead of time and make sure that you arrange all the meeting logistics.
4. Structure the mentoring session
It is very possible that your mentor will have a proposed structure for the meeting – but don’t count on it. You need to come prepared for the first meeting. Bring your resume and other information that you can provide your mentor with, that will serve to introduce who you are. Share your goals and bring a list of topics that you would like to cover during your mentoring sessions to support you. I recommend that you add agenda points to the meeting invitation so that the mentor knows that you have a plan and that you have given this some thought. During the meeting, it is up to you to take notes on commitments, decisions and follow up actions. Always make sure that you minimize the burden of the mentor.
5. Actively seek feedback – and act on it!
The sole purpose of entering into a mentoring relationship is to develop – and development means change. Actively seek and be thankful for any feedback provided by your mentor – don’t defend, argue or get upset. Listen, take notes and be thankful for the feedback. After the session, it is up to you to act on the feedback. Don’t think that the mentoring ends after the meeting is over – the mentoring is ongoing. You need to act on the feedback you were given and show your mentor the progress you are making towards reaching your goals.
6. Thank your mentor
The final step is to show gratitude by properly thanking your mentor. You can do this in a number of different ways – send a thank you email or text message after each session. If you can, give your mentor a handwritten thank you note, these are more personal. At least once a year I would recommend that you give a gift, this could be a dinner for your mentor and his/her spouse, a box of chocolate or a nice bottle of wine (make sure you find out what your mentor’s taste preferences are).
It’s not a binding contract
If you follow these steps as a mentee you will be very effective and hopefully reach the goals you have set up for your mentoring relationship. But even if you follow these steps, things might not turn out the way you expect. It’s important to remember that a mentoring relationship is not bound by a formal contract. If you notice that, for any reason, the mentoring is not working out, it’s ok to end it. It’s better to end it than to waste your and your mentor’s valuable time.
In the next blog post, which is the third and final article in this mentoring series, you will learn how to be an effective mentor.
(If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here)