This article, co authored by Betsy A. Hays and Tori Randolph Terhune, was originally published at CollegeXpress in 2014.
If you took the time to read this, you probably already know why you need a mentor. Mentors are amazingly helpful for building your network, gaining perspective from someone with more experience, and having help for your professional problems. With some strategic networking effort on your part, in your life you will have many valuable mentors.
In order to make the most of these relationships, consider the following tips for being an amazing mentee, and, as a result, maximizing your mentoring experiences:
- Set expectations early. Let your mentor know what you are looking for in your mentoring relationship. By outlining what you want and need, your mentor will have an easier time delivering on your expectations. Be sure to ask your mentor what you can do for them as well (although they might not have an answer for this right away).
- Discuss how to communicate. Ask your mentor for his/her preference, and use it! Some folks like phone calls, some don't. Some love texting, some don’t. Honor this and your mentor will be very appreciative! Check on best times of day as well.
- Take and maintain initiative. It will be up to you to keep the relationship afloat, so be the one to schedule meetings and check ins at times and locations convenient for your mentor.
- Be flexible. Don’t take it personally if your mentor is late or needs to reschedule. Have a good attitude and go with the flow. However, if this is a consistent thing, consider spending less effort on the relationship and finding someone more dependable. Your time is valuable too!
- Be yourself. Your mentor can help you much better if you present the “real you” to them. Be honest with both your strengths and opportunities for improvement!
- Take it seriously. Be on time, have great manners, and be prepared.
- Weigh advice carefully. While most of the time your mentor will give fabulous advice, always consider it before you act. You are the one responsible for you, and your gut will always tell you what’s best.
- Share with your mentor. Let him/her know what happened when you took or didn’t take their advice. Also share your successes so they can be proud of you and also tout them to others.
- Be appreciative. Say thank you often—both in person and via notes and perhaps even social media shout-outs.
- Observe. Many wonderful things can be learned by observing people who we admire and respect.
- Say yes! When suggests you try something, such as attending a conference, try to go if at all possible.
- Invite yourself. Offer to attend meetings or events with your mentor. They may not think about something being a good experience for you, so you’ll have to initiate the conversation.
- Help your mentor. When you can, share information, resources, or contacts with your mentor to help him or her achieve his or her goals. “Mutual mentoring” can be a wonderful thing!
- Ask why. Learning how to do things is valuable, of course, but often learning why things need to be done is equally or even more important.
- Respect confidences. You will probably get to know some professional secrets via your relationship with your mentor. Keep them!
Also, just like everything else in your life, periodically assess. Is this mentoring relationship working for you? What can you do to make it better? Operating on autopilot is never good for a relationship, and the one you have with your mentor is one that should be actively nurtured and developed.
These are some of the tips from our book Life After College: 10 Steps to Build A Life You Love that you can use to maintain your career momentum and achieve your professional goals. We’d love to hear what you think! Please comment below if you have other tips you think will help young professionals, or if any of these tips have worked for you!