A couple of years ago I helped the CIPD North East of England Branch launch their professional mentoring programme.
Having run some mentoring skills workshops for the mentors, we realised that we also needed to give some guidance to mentees. Research has shown that the mentoring relationships that succeed are the ones where both the mentor and mentee take an active role in developing the relationship.
So here are my 10 top tips on how to get the best out of a mentor:
1. Define what you want to get out of the mentoring relationship. Do you need career advice? Are you looking for a new job? Are you keen to get experience of a particular specialism within HR? Are you struggling with a particular project or challenge?
2. Develop a picture of success for the relationship. If the mentoring is successful for both you and the mentor, how will you know? What will be different as a result? What will be the signs that the relationship has been effective?
3. Make a positive start. The initial meeting is crucial. Use it to get to know each other and to agree how the relationship will work. Will you meet face to face or communicate mainly through e-mail and the telephone? What boundaries do you want to agree for the relationship? Think about any ground rules you want to establish.
4. Develop the relationship by showing respect and building trust. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and the other priorities in his/her life – work, family, travel, interests etc. Make every effort to build trust in the relationship. For example, show up for meetings on time, follow up on any introductions made by your mentor etc
5. Prepare well for your meetings with your mentor. Be clear on the issue or topic you want to discuss and be ready to share with your mentor your own thoughts on how to approach it. Remember, your mentor is there to help you think things through and share their knowledge and experience to give you other ideas to consider. They are not there to do the thinking and make the decisions for you.
6. Open yourself to new ideas. Your mentor won’t give you advice or tell you what to do but they will share their ideas and experiences. In order to get the most from this relationship you should approach the situation with a fresh and open mind, welcoming in as many new ideas as possible.
7. Request introductions to your mentor’s network contacts. One of the greatest benefits you can get from any mentoring relationship is introductions to people who you normally wouldn’t know or be able to reach. Be clear on who you would like to meet and why, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to introduce you and be sure to follow up with any leads.
8. Express your gratitude. Your mentor will be giving you the benefit of their knowledge, experience and network contacts. Be sure to express regularly that you value and appreciate your mentor’s guidance.
9. Give back. Provide your mentor with an insight into what goes on in your role, your level, your specialty and your organization so that they too can benefit and learn from your experience.
10. Be helpful. Hopefully, your mentor will pass on information that he or she thinks might be useful to your professional development. Return the favour by e-mailing over any news stories that they might be interested in or information that they might find valuable.
As with all relationships, your relationship with your mentor will need to be worked at. Getting the most out of your relationship will require more than just turning up for the odd meeting but the effort will be worth it.
Have you got some experience of how to get the best out of a mentor? Please share your thoughts.