A mentorship relationship can be the determining factor in making or breaking the next steps of your career. However, many individuals jump into mentorship relationships without really knowing what it entails or how to get the most out of it. In order to avoid ineffective relationships, here are a few ways that you can make the most out of a mentorship:
If you are a mentor:
- Be committed. As a mentor, you are offering your time to someone else in order to help them further their career. By taking this responsibility seriously, you are making the most of your time and your mentees time. We understand that life can get in the way, but if you commit to a mentee it is crucial that you are there when they need you.
- Listen. You may think that your main job as a mentor is to be the one talking, giving advice and encouraging, but listening is one of the key parts of making the most of a mentorship relationship. Listening to your mentee allows you to understand their situation and give them tailored advice and encouragement. Additionally, letting your mentee talk it out can be helpful for them to sort through the situation they are discussing.
- Have patience. Committing to a mentorship relationship can be a long-term endeavor. Over your relationship with your mentee they may neglect advice or flounder. In these instances, a little bit of constructive criticism can help get them back on track. However, many people have a hard time taking criticism. In these instances, your patience will be critical to maintaining the relationship and getting the most out of it.
- Be a good role model. By volunteering as a mentor, you are raising the bar for how you conduct yourself. Leading by example allows your mentee to go beyond the conversations you have with them and follow your direction. You don’t have to be a saint, but it is good to be cognizant that your actions are being watched by someone who wants to emulate you.
- Be prepared. Walk into every mentorship session with a loose game plan of what you want to discuss and what goals you want to achieve. You can plan each session by first asking your mentee what they want to get out of the relationship and what topics they want to discuss. From there, you can get the most out of every meeting by knowing what key points you want to focus on ahead of time.
If you are a mentee:
- Have an open mind. The best way to go into a mentorship relationship is with the mindset that you are there to learn. While you may have been the smartest kid in your college class or the brightest new hire at your agency, it is critical that you go into your mentorship relationship humbly and with an open mind. Checking your ego at the door can make your mentorship relationship much more fruitful.
- Be flexible. While you probably have a busy schedule yourself, it’s important to remember that your mentor does too. During initial meetings talk about your schedules and decide what the best way for you to meet is. Be prepared to adjust your schedule to fit it around when and where your mentor is able to meet and spend time with you.
- Have goals. Going into a mentorship relationship just to pick your mentors brain can be counterproductive. Rather, you should have a clear goal for the relationship and what you want to cover in your sessions. Be honest and up front with what you need from your mentor and work together to achieve those goals throughout the mentorship relationship.
- Accept criticism. At one point or another in your mentorship relationship, your mentor is going to give you some criticism. When they do this, it is because they are trying to help you and shape your career. Don’t get defensive and accept it graciously. Most importantly, take what they say and implement change so you don’t make the same mistake again.
- Shine. One of my favorite professors in grad school started the first lecture of every semester by bluntly explaining that if we were not going to use our degrees to thrive in the field we should drop his class. This mindset is a good way to approach your mentorship. In order to get the most out of a mentorship relationship it is critical to use the tools you learn from your mentor and be a star in your field.
Are you ready to flourish in a mentor/mentee relationship? The NextGen Leadership Development Program could be the next step for you. Learn more about what you can get out of the program here.