When it comes to gaining your footing in a new organization, there is little more exciting or more helpful than receiving a mentor to guide you through the process. However, the transition isn’t always smooth. When I was first working with IBM, I was told early on that I should look for mentors. As such, I was ecstatic when I managed to organize a meeting with the Chief Procurement Officer. When the meeting started, we introduced ourselves, exchanged pleasantries, and he asked me what questions I had for him.
I had no idea what to say.
Plain and simple, I wasn’t prepared! Our meeting was only three to four minutes when an hour had been set aside. This was a negative interaction in twofold, as it was a missed opportunity for me to learn and moreover poorly impacted the CPO’s perception of me. This is a situation no mentee should have to experience. To avoid such disasters, here are 7 tips for what you can do as a mentee to get the most out of your relationship with your mentor:
1. Always be prepared.
While your mentor is your guiding light, they cannot be expected to have all knowledge at hand all of the time! Have questions ready in advance to kickstart communication and ensure you’re getting the most out of your conversations. In that same vein, be organized for your coaching sessions beforehand—maximize what you can learn in the time you have.
2. Make sure you click.
If you are not comfortable with your mentor, then you will never be able to truly learn from their experiences or fully understand their advice. The relationship between mentor and mentee needs to be one where communication occurs clearly and constantly. As such, it should be a safe space for conversation.
3. Be truly open to feedback.
Oftentimes we tell ourselves that we are open to feedback, but the second that feedback starts to sting, we close ourselves off. Real, helpful feedback may hurt, and that’s okay! The “hurt” means the feedback is genuine and demonstrates your mentor truly wants to see you grow and improve.
4. Take action with feedback.
It is crucial to be open to feedback, yes, but taking action with that feedback is just as important. Listen to your mentor’s constructive criticism, absorb it, then implement it into your work. Remember, they want to help you grow. Only by taking action will you see yourself progress!
5. Seek multiple mentors.
As aforementioned, it is unrealistic and rather unfair to expect one person to have all the answers at all times. Thus, to ensure you are getting the most out of your mentorship experience, don’t be afraid to seek multiple mentors, even if some of them are outside of the organization you’re part of! One person may help you with your communication skills, another individual may mentor you in the technical abilities you need to have, and so on and so forth.
6. Learn from each other.
The relationship between mentor and mentee is a two-way street, where a sort of equivalent exchange takes place. You and your mentor give knowledge to and receive knowledge from one another in equal parts, which is another reason healthy and comfortable communication is so crucial. While there is much you will learn from your mentor, they should be learning from you, too!
7. Stay in touch afterwards.
If you have managed to succeed in all the previous tips, then this final one should come with ease! If you and your mentor are comfortable together, communicate well, and actively learn from each other, it is only natural that you should want this relationship to continue even after they are no longer “officially” your mentor. Why? Because your mentor is an important part of your network! Not only can they continue to answer questions you may have in the future, but they may even become your sponsor, where they can open doors for you or make connections you may have struggled to acquire on your own.
This list is a starting point as you begin cultivating your relationship with your mentor(s).
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company. Her mission is providing guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within their organization.