Anytime I see a forward in my email inbox, I tend to get a little suspicious. Usually it means I’ve been assigned an extra task or meeting to attend. Either way, I always open it up to find out what’s going on. I like to be prepared for anything.
I recently saw an application for a mentorship program sponsored by my organization. It attracted my interest because I’ve never actually had a formal mentor before (at least not the kind where you had to fill out paperwork).
Most of my mentor experiences have been conducted informally on the job and in my head (like Oprah & Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. Both of whom I intend to meet one day). Working in public affairs itself has also given me opportunities to meet all types of people and learn about different professions. It’s one of the things I enjoy the most about my job. Some experiences were great and some not so great. However, each one taught something me that I’ve used to better myself personally and professionally.
After reading the application, I decided to participate in the program. Initially ALL I thought about were the qualities I wanted my mentor to have and all of the things I wanted to learn from them. It was all about me, me and me again. Instead of asking “what’s in it for me, I really should have been asking “what’s in it for them?” I believe the best mentor and mentee relationships works both ways. One has to give as well as take.
How are a few tips to help you become an awesome mentee and totally impress your future mentor. If you’re already awesome, then you can just read through for a refresher.
- Be Committed- Once the newness and initial excitement wear off, it’s time to get to work. Don’t allow other obligations or duties to distract you from taking care of business … literally. Find a way to remain motivated and always remember why you wanted to become a mentee in the first place.
- Be Proactive- What good is it if your mentor downloads tons of mind-blowing career advice on you that you do absolutely nothing with? It’s YOUR job not theirs to apply what you’re learning and to ask questions.
- Be Flexible- Schedules change, plans go awry and life in general happens (usually at the most inconvenient times). Communicate with your mentor truthfully and make adjustments to ensure you’re still able to get the most out of your time together. Focus on creating a solution when things gets crazy.
- Active listening- No one wants to constantly repeat themselves or struggle to get a word in during a conversation because the other person won’t stop talking. If you’re a “Chatty Kathy,” practice pausing and taking a breath. Focus on what your mentor is actually saying and not just your response. You can also take notes to remind you of key points and due-outs.
- Respect their time and boundaries – Be on time and be prepared. Time is valuable and you do not want to waste theirs or yours because of poor planning or miscommunication. Also, while it’s nice to have an open relationship with your mentor, don’t make the mistake of becoming too comfortable or complacent. It’s ok to smile and laugh when appropriate but always maintain a level of professionalism.
- Give back – Make it a point to update your mentor on your professional progress during and after your time together. Try to keep in regular contact and avoid just reaching out to them only when you need something. In fact, don’t be afraid to ask them sometimes if they need anything. It’s a small world and one day you just may be in the position to lend a hand to your mentor. Most importantly as you learn, go out and teach others. Mentors come in all ages and skill levels. Someone will benefit from your experiences too.
Dijon N. Rolle is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.