May 16, 2023 4 Min Read
Get the Most Out of Your Mentor Relationship
Congratulations on having made a commitment to engage in mentoring. With that step accomplished, you might be wondering, “How do I get the most out of this mentoring relationship?”
This brief article will answer that question, with suggestions on how best to approach the relationship, how to prepare, and the expectations you should have. Following through on these suggestions will put you in a great place to have a very productive and enjoyable experience.
To begin, recognize that you are building a relationship with another person, and basic relationship hygiene is important. Respect, commitment, and openness are three examples of how to show up for a mentoring relationship. A mentorship is a relationship between two people where the mentor – the individual with more experience, knowledge, and connections, is donating their time to pass along what they have learned to someone less seasoned. You should expect the same qualities from your mentor in return – respect, commitment and openness. At the end of the day, this relationship needs to be built on trust.
If you feel the two of you are not compatible in this way, respectfully ask for a different mentor.
A Growth Experience
Mentoring is a growth experience, so it’s best to adopt a growth mindset of being curious, probing, challenging, and thought provoking. Add to that the good listening skills of being focused, seeking clarification, and acknowledging the advice you’ve been given. Mentors have a lot of stories to share. Stories are memorable and a great way to learn. Encourage your mentor to share their life stories with you. Asking open-ended questions is the perfect way to start sharing.
Do your homework. In other words, invest a little extra time before and after each conversation to organize your thoughts, challenge yourself, reflect, and practice. Mentors will really notice and appreciate that you are invested and they will reciprocate.
You may stress about being completely honest with your mentor, but it is important to overcome that and move forward. These are confidential conversations, so let your guard down, and tell it like it is. Otherwise how can your mentor share similar experiences during their life journey and offer pinpoint advice? Ask direct questions without being vague or obscure. Provide enough color and detail that the mentor “gets it”.
Along the way, different situations are bound to appear for which your mentor may be able to help. An interpersonal conflict or academic performance issue is one example where the mentor might share a similar experience and how they dealt with it. A mentor might be able to deepen your self-awareness and self-perception with objective feedback. Mentor feedback can direct you to skill development opportunities, particularly those soft skills vital to teamwork, collaboration and communication.
The best way to start your mentoring relationship is to set a goal for what you want to accomplish. Share that goal with your mentor at your first meeting, and establish some ground rules for working together, providing feedback, and celebrating success.
A mentoring relationship is not a one-time conversation, it’s a journey. Be patient and don’t expect immediate answers to all questions. With time, you should expect this relationship to grow and deepen. Your fears will turn into excitement about the road ahead. Your questions will be answered. This is exactly what a mentorship relationship is for, and it’s a good barometer of progress.
In summary, to get the most out of your mentoring relationship, reflect on your state of readiness. Are you in the right mindset of curiosity and openness? Have you prepared by setting goals, and collecting your thoughts so that the conversations can be specific to your needs? Are you in a good place to receive feedback, and advice that you can act on? Do you have the patience to practice and see it through? If the answers are yes, then you’re ready. If not, this is your call to action.
Remember, your mentor is there to help you succeed, and you’ll get out of it what you put into it.