Getting The Best From Your Mentor Relationships

I recently shared a post that described the qualities of a great mentor identified by the participants in the WICT Mentoring program.  Let’s assume you have found a great mentor.  Now what?  How do you ensure that the conversations, learning and insights add value and help you to move closer to achieving your goals?  Here are four best practices for getting the most from your mentor relationships:

  1. Have a goal in mind: It may sound obvious but the most fundamental step in getting the best from your mentor is to have an idea of what it is you are trying to achieve.  Whether it’s to learn a new skill, tap into their expertise, overcome a gap, knowing where you are trying to go is the first step.  You don’t need to know HOW to get there, that is where the power of the mentoring conversations will come in!
  2. Agree to a schedule – and [try to] stick to it: Will you be meeting monthly, every two weeks, weekly? In person or by phone?  Whatever the frequency of your mentoring conversations and whether they are in person or not, try to schedule those meetings at the outset.  You can always move them if necessary, however by scheduling them up front it means that your other commitments fit around you and  your mentoring, rather than trying to fit your mentoring around other things.  Move yourself up your own priority list!
  3. Clarify Expectations: Mentors and mentees typically enter their relationships with underlying expectations of each other. To prevent misaligned expectations and the possibility of disappointment make sure you discuss and agree: Confidentiality, response times (if I email or phone between scheduled meeting how quickly can I expect to hear back?), communication methods, how long the mentoring relationship is expected to last, and so on
  4. Take Action: This is the most critical step to a satisfying mentoring experience.  The conversations you have with your mentor will likely be interesting, challenging and insightful.  However you need to be prepared to move out of your comfort zone and take action; practice the new skills and behaviors, attend a program or networking event, read relevant articles and books.  Learning requires both knowledge and skill, put it into practice!

What advice do you have for ensuring that you get the best from your mentor relationships?