So you’ve found yourself a mentor. Maybe they were assigned to you through a company-wide formal mentorship program. Or, perhaps you sought out someone you admire and want to learn from. Once you’ve found your mentor, the next step is to leverage them.
It’s essential that you take ownership of maximizing the relationship and building trust. If you’re the one primarily benefiting from the relationship, it’s up to you to make it easy for them to help you.
There’s nothing worse than meeting with someone and feeling like they didn’t take the time to learn about your background. Don’t let this happen with your mentor. Before you meet them, you should know:·
Where they went to school
What their career path has been
How long they’ve been at their current company
What their job involves
Who you know in common
It’s not creepy to do this research. It’s flattering. So, hop on LinkedIn and invest your time in better understanding their background. By demonstrating you’ve done your research you’ll signal to the other person that you value their time.
The most common way mentor relationships fail is because the two parties don’t build a strong relationship. In order to build a strong relationship, you must meet frequently and maintain active communication.
Aim to meet with your mentor at least once per quarter. This cadence allows you to bring fresh topics to each conversation without becoming a burden on their calendar. It’s best to schedule a recurring meeting so you don’t forget to get the next conversation on your calendars. You can always reschedule as the date gets closer if there’s a conflict.
Substantive conversations make for meaningful mentor relationships. By preparing thoughtful questions and topics you want to cover in your conversation, you’ll make the most of each meeting. A few examples of great questions for your mentor include:
What do you wish you did differently early in your career?
What do you think most people misunderstand about what’s involved in your current role?
I’m dealing with XYZ scenario and am not sure what to do. Can I get your advice?
I’m interested in pursuing XYZ career path. Do you think this would be a good fit for me?
Based on what you know about me, what do you think my blindspots are?
You can write down your questions and bring your notes to the meeting. Your mentor will appreciate the thought you put into the conversation.
The best way to show your mentor you took their advice and paid attention to the conversation is to send them a note about how you incorporated it. Set a calendar reminder for yourself to send them a quick note a few weeks after your meeting and share what action you took based on their guidance. Even if you didn’t take a specific action, sending an email re-thanking them for their support is much appreciated. This is also a helpful way to strengthen the relationship and stay top-of-mind.
It doesn’t matter if you’re one year out of college and your mentor is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you can always add value to someone else. It might not be by giving them career advice, but you can get creative to make the relationship mutually beneficial. Identify ways you can be of service to your mentor based on what you know about them personally and professionally. Even asking the question, “what can I do to support you?” is appreciated by everyone. More than anything, it’s showing that you don’t take them for granted and want to give back.