One of the most common pieces of career advice that I’ve received to accelerate my career growth is to get a mentor. I often found this advice to be difficult to implement. How do I select a mentor? Who do I ask? What do I say to them when I get one? These are the various questions that entered my mind whenever I received this advice. Over the years I’ve been mentored by several people and I’ve had great experiences and other experiences that were a complete waste of our time.
If you are in a situation where you have been assigned a mentor and are not really sure what to do next, here are some things that you can implement to achieve progress:
Schedule your meetings
In your mentorship do you find yourself contacting your mentor when you are stuck on something and then quickly realize that you haven’t spoken to your mentor in three months? I have been there before. In my experience I’ve had the best progress when I meet my mentor regularly. There is no magic formula on how often you should meet. It just depends on what you are looking to achieve. What works best for me is meeting with my mentor every three weeks. I literally put a reoccurring meeting on the calendar for a six month period and make adjustments as needed along the way. These regularly scheduled meetings have helped me stay focused on implementing the advice my mentor has given in our previous interaction.
Now that you have a regular meeting scheduled on the calendar, it’s time to figure out what you will talk about. The objective of a mentorship is to excel in a particular subject area that you believe your mentor is successful in. With that said, be prepared to talk about your goals. Also, depending on the method you are meeting in (e.g. phone call, in person, golf), having an agenda can be helpful so that you can make sure you cover everything you wish to discuss. Remember progress is the goal, so you want to be as efficient as possible. In my experience I share my goals with my mentor and the objective of our discussions is inquiring with my mentor the steps I should take to accomplish them.
Ask questions. Avoid finding yourself talking the entire time. Your mentor has a lot of knowledge on how you can achieve similar success. Your mentor will have plenty of stories to tell you of how they solved issues while trying to achieve their goals. Remember that you as the mentee drive the relationship and the experience can be whatever you want it to be. You want to avoid putting the entire responsibility of carrying the conversation on your mentor. It is not a good use of their time and eventually you will find out that you are aren’t making any progress. It is important that you never assume that your mentor doesn’t want you to ask a certain question. The whole point of this relationship is to learn from their experiences.
It can be intimidating being in the presence of your mentor, especially if you get the opportunity to be paired up with someone who is very senior to you. The best thing that you can do is keep in mind that your mentor was in a similar position as you at some point in their life. Your mentor either figured things out by trial and error or they themselves had guidance from a mentor. Try to relax when you are meeting with your mentor and absorb as much as you can. Your mentor is not there to judge, they are their to help you, try to remind yourself of that if you begin to feel intimidated.
Every time you meet with your mentor make sure that you are showing progress. Earlier I mentioned bringing your goals to the conversation. As one of your agenda items, be prepared to discuss the progress of your goals and how you implemented the advice you received in previous conversations. Also, don’t be afraid to say what didn’t work for you. Your mentor might be able to give you other ideas to help you. The last thing you want to do is come to the conversation having made no progress. It will eventually become clear to your mentor that you are not taking their time seriously. A benefit to showing progress is that your mentor will see the results of their advice and will want to do more to see you succeed.
Being in a mentorship can be challenging, especially when you’ve been assigned a mentor at your company and you don’t know each other. Once you get to know one another it is much easier for the relationship to take off. Until that happens, the steps above can help you achieve progress.
Do you have a mentor? What are some of the challenges you have seen in that relationship? What’s worked well in your relationship?
Previously posted in the Huffington Post