- Do you have any tips on what good mentors look for in mentees?
- How does a mentee make it easier for a time-strapped mentor?
- Mechanisms? Ways of communicating? Topics? Agenda?
You can tell Andrea’s a star, in that she even thought to ask this question. To show respect for the mentor’s time investment, she immediately thought about more than just her own goals. That consideration, and her ensuing preparation, will go a long way toward creating a mutually rewarding mentor/mentee relationship. And the recommendations below apply very similarly to boss/employee interactions as well, so consider them as a way to improve your one-on-ones/relationship with your boss.
How to Be a Good Mentee
- Communicate an Agenda/Topic – it helps if you have a specific topic you’d like to discuss. For instance, maybe you’d like help developing a Career Development Plan. Or, maybe you have questions about how to improve your interviewing skills. If you can explain the meeting goals in advance, and send any documents you’d like the mentor to review (time permitting), that will show a respect for their time. And if they don’t feel qualified on the topic, the mentor can politely decline and save you both some time. I much prefer specific topic-driven meetings vs. open-ended coffees.
- Drive the Scheduling & Stick to the Time Request – if you ask for 30 minutes, make sure you show up early and be ready to go. And end on time. You don’t want to be the reason their day got derailed. And, of course, make the meeting location convenient for them (near their home, office, etc).
- Don’t Request Too Much – Build the relationship slowly. Make it easy for them to opt for either a fixed (i.e. monthly) schedule, or one that is more intermittent, driven by when you have specific topics you’d like to discuss. Don’t make bigger asks until you’ve developed trust.
- Don’t Assume the Mentors are Right – my friend @Micah suggested this one, and it’s really important to remember. While the mentor may have a little more/different experience, it’s entirely possible that their advice is wrong. So, take all of the advice with a grain of salt, and figure out what works for you. This is a little easier when you have many people giving you varied opinions.
- Follow Up on the Meeting – If you asked for their assistance with your career development plan, let them know how it went over with your boss. Call out some specific suggestions that really made a difference. The mentor will be happy that their time investment is paying off for you in positive ways. Of course, remember to thank them for their time.
- Find a Way to Help Them – you may feel like there’s little you could do to help your mentor, but if you think creatively, there’s probably a way. Maybe they have questions about some new websites that the youngsters are flocking to. Or, possibly they’d like some unbiased feedback about a new product their proposing. Of course, you can always thank them publicly with a LinkedIn Recommendation, calling them out as a helpful mentor (that reflects well on them from a career perspective).
- Pay It Forward – this mentoring thing only works if you continue the tradition. I often tell startup founders that the best way they can help me is to help the next batch of founders. Not only does it take those coffee meetings off my plate 🙂 but it makes the overall network stronger. And, soon enough, they’ll recognize the questions coming their way as identical to their current challenges. Then, they can pass on that hard-earned wisdom!
As ever, what did I miss?