3 Ways to Maximize Mentor/Mentee Relationships
When asked how they landed a dream job or rose to their current rank, many accomplished business executives attribute their position to an outstanding mentor.
Whether you are striving for a promotion, seeking a new role, or looking to hone your skillset for daily job responsibilities, you may similarly benefit from this type of relationship. A professional mentor can help individuals at any stage of their career achieve better outcomes than may have been possible alone.
There are a multitude of benefits to seeking consistent guidance from an admired professional. A great mentor can provide sound advice based on life experience, offer strategic and valuable connections for networking, identify beneficial tools or resources for professional growth, and help mentees maximize their potential. Such an arrangement not only benefits the mentee – the mentor can also gain much from the experience, such as a fresh and valuable perspective on challenges they are facing and the opportunity to make new connections through their mentees. Further, an organization that promotes mentorship throughout its ranks can also experience significant benefits, ranging from enhanced comradery to a more skilled and well-rounded workforce.
If you are interested in cultivating a mentor relationship or you are the one in the leadership role and have recently been approached to act as a mentor, below are three tips to get the most out of the arrangement.
Be thoughtful in the mentor/mentee pairing – Finding a good mentor is largely dependent on the individual selected, so be intentional and thoughtful with whom you would like to ask and look at it as a partnership opportunity. Oftentimes there is a benefit in requesting mentorship with someone who is familiar with your specific field of work and even job responsibilities. Though you may admire and respect a primetime TV host, they may not be much help for an accounting career and vice versa. This is not to say that a mentor must be in the same field, there is simply benefit to familiarity. In fact, successful businesspersons find greater benefit in connections that are supplemental to their strengths as opposed to only refining existing fortes. It can also be helpful to find a mentor with whom one identifies with based on some part of their identity, especially for people who can be underrepresented in certain fields, such as women in STEM.
Establish clear goals and a defined structure for the mentorship – While it is likely that any person asked to be a mentor will be flattered, they will be further motivated to agree to and invest in the engagement if they understand the mentee’s desired goals and structure for the relationship. As a mentee, focus on identifying a handful of outcomes you would like to see stem from the arrangement. It would likely be beneficial to make these actionable, measurable objectives, otherwise known as SMART goals. In addition to goals, it can be helpful to set expectations of a structure for the engagement when approaching a mentor. For example, sharing that there is a desired timeline of 6 months of bi-weekly or monthly meetings. This also will show the mentor that the mentee has been thoughtful before asking for their guidance.
Approach each meeting of the arrangement with intention – While it may seem like “the ask” is the hard part, it is after a mentor agrees to offer their guidance that the real work begins. A valuable mentorship takes care and effort throughout the relationship. Mentees should be wary to not become complacent during the engagement – this is where establishing goals and a structure can be of great benefit. Mentors should aim to be proactive in offering advice and developing points of coaching based on their knowledge of the mentee’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses. However, the onus of maximizing the value of the relationship falls squarely on the shoulders of the person requesting such support. Mentees should be active in cultivating the relationship throughout its lifespan. This may be as involved as coming to each meeting with an agenda of discussion items and goals. Like with many things in life, you get out of a mentorship what you put into it.
Though the value and importance of a mentorship should not be minimized, the relationship does not need to be pressurized by rigidity, complexity, and formality. The engagement can be commenced with simple meetings to start, using ice breakers and casual conversation to establish greater trust and familiarity. Finally, when developing a consideration set of potential mentors, do not discount the informal mentors already acting as guides. Sometimes the best person for the job has been right there all along.
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