Mentors are experienced and trusted advisors. Engaging in a mentoring relationship can help you to improve your career, business or educational endeavours. A mentor can guide you, take you under their wing and teach you new, relevant and useful skills. Mentoring relationships can be satisfying for both parties when both mentor and mentored take an active role in developing the relationship. Below are useful tips for getting the best out of your mentoring relationship.
- Be clear on why you want a mentor and why you are meeting; define what type of help you are looking for in a mentor. Are you looking for someone with similar skills, or someone with a very different skill set who can coach you?
- Establish goals for the relationship; discuss and agree upon the goals of the relationship and what you are doing in it. Review these goals regularly and ensure the relationship is working; if not adjust and refocus.
- Network to find a suitable mentor; once you decide on the type of mentor you need, participate in functions and professional associations where you might find this type of person.
- Don’t limit yourself to one mentor; you can establish multiple mentoring relationships with individuals who can address different aspects of your life. Think of it as building your own personal board of directors. Don’t underestimate the value of a peer mentor or someone at your own level who has complimentary skills and expertise.
- Establish communication methods and frequency of contact; talk to your mentor and determine the lines of communication that will work for you both. Will you meet face to face, or communicate mainly through e-mail and the telephone? Ensure you meet or talk enough to suit both of you.
- Manage expectations and build trust; mentoring takes time and implies sacrifices for both parties. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and the other priorities in his or her life–family, travel, community activities etc. Avoid any trust breaking behaviours such as cancelling appointments or not following through on leads and contacts given to you by your mentor.
- Express your gratitude; the mentor may tend to give a lot more than you do in the relationship in terms of time and, or contacts. Ensure to express regularly that you value and appreciate your mentor’s guidance.
- Try to acquire great mentoring skills; these include listening, guidance, recommendations, and wisdom. When you receive corrective comments from your mentor, don’t be defensive. Listen, digest, and take immediate steps to apply what you have learned.
- Be respectful of your mentor’s time. Do not overburden your mentor by demanding too much of their time, or resources.
- Do not follow a mentor blindly or foolishly; remember your goals and stick to them. Like anyone else, mentors can make mistakes too.