Mentorships are a proven method of up-skilling and developing your expertise on-the-job. But while a mentor’s expectations are clear, two-thirds of people are unsure what’s required from them as a mentee.
Often people assume it’s the mentor who shoulders the responsibility of ensuring a successful outcome from a mentorship, but the reality is that the mentee has a greater obligation to make the relationship work – and has much more at stake.
So, how can you be an effective mentee?
1. Respect your mentor’s time: Your mentor is voluntarily giving up their time to pass on their skills and knowledge to help your career develop, so you should be flexible and accommodate their schedule when sending each meeting invite. Arrive a few minutes early to each appointment and always be thankful for their time. Understand that sometimes schedules change at the last minute – and if you are the one who needs to reschedule, try to give plenty of notice.
2. Communicate your purpose: You need to be clear about what you want to achieve from a mentorship to avoid wasting each other’s time. Your mentor is not a mind reader, so set and discuss your specific objectives and then arrive at each meeting with questions or an agenda aligned to your overall goal. It may help to make a note of questions that come to mind throughout your working week that you could ask in your next meeting.
3. Be prepared: Before every meeting with your mentor, prepare or collate relevant samples of your work. For example, if you’re asking your mentor for advice on report writing, bring along a draft report you are working on. This allows your mentor to provide relevant and practical advice.
4. Use new skills: A mentor will provide you with useful knowledge, guidance and advice, which will only be beneficial if you use it. Don’t waste your mentor’s time – and your own – by failing to put into practice the new skills they’ve shared with you.
5. Provide feedback: Mentors want to know that their time and effort is having a positive impact on you. After all, they’ve invested time in you that they could have spent elsewhere. Always share with your mentor the successes you’ve had following their guidance.
6. Seek out multiple mentors: Finally, you can have more than one mentor simultaneously. No one person is proficient in every skill or competency you want to master, so do not expect a mentor to provide guidance on topics outside their scope of expertise. Instead, have multiple mentors to cover all the areas you want to develop.