Being in a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship can move your career or business forward in your desired direction, possibly even beyond your wildest dreams. Keep in mind, however, that being in a said relationship requires hard work, from finding the right mentor to maintaining a productive relationship with him – or her, for that matter.
Deciding on the Qualities You’re Looking for in the Right Mentor
First off, your mentor should be the right person for your current status, goals, and aspirations. You may have more than one mentor in the course of your life as these aspects change, and it’s alright. You’re one of the lucky few who have a lifelong mentor but it’s also acceptable to move on from an old mentor to a new one.
We believe that the right mentor should possess the right personal traits and professional experience relevant to your unique needs as a mentee. First, you want a mentor with integrity, credibility, and trustworthiness, traits that speak of a reliable person who can become your guide, advisor, and possibly a friend.
Second, your mentor should have the right professional credentials, preferably with a career path similar to yours. You want a mentor who will actually understand your career or business trajectory because he’s been there, not to mention that you won’t have to explain yourself one too many times. Your mentor will also have valuable insights that can be used in taking the next step for your advancement.
But don’t be limited in your choice of mentor to, say, persons more experienced or more connected than you are! You may find that a mentor closer to your age or experience provides relevant advice and understands your position better.
Finding Your Mentor in the Right Places
With the Internet, there are more places to search for the right mentor. But the traditional means shouldn’t be ignored either, especially as you and your prospective mentor have to talk one-on-one. Here are a few things that you can do to narrow your search.
- Consider your existing network of contacts
Your current professional network is the best place to start your search for a mentor. Your colleagues, superiors, and even peers are potential mentors, particularly as you have already established real relationships with many of them. You will have an easier time asking them to be your mentor, and even if you’re not in a mentor-mentee relationship, you can still turn to them for job opportunities, career advice, or business tips.
You must also expand your network of contacts by attending industry events, becoming a resource person for group activities, and doing the rounds of social events. The more people you know, the wider your net can be cast!
- Look to your online network
Don’t limit yourself, however, to your existing network of personal and professional contacts in the real world. You have to consider your contacts in the virtual world, and it should be an easy task considering the wide variety of online communities.
Your network may be limited to, say, under a thousand contacts on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as well as Quora, Reddit, and Slack but it’s often sufficient. You’re not really looking for quantity but for quality.
Look for people on your online network who are active in their digital presence, particularly as it’s one way of determining their integrity, reputation, and reliability. Many of the best mentors share their opinions, views, and experiences with others, as well as engage in constructive discussions about issues affecting their industry, spend time assisting others and make connections with people in and out of their fields.
Tip: Look for potential mentors who aren’t selfish with sharing useful advice on their websites and/or social media pages. Many of them will be happy to become your mentor since they aren’t afraid to pull others up even as they are on an upward trajectory, too.
You should also consider being a prospective mentee for established mentors by establishing a good reputation, online and offline. You may not even look further since the potential mentors may be the ones approaching you!
You should, for example, share your learnings online, be active on platforms, and update your information on a regular basis. This way, you’re also making it easier for prospective mentors to determine your suitability as a mentee.
But how do you ask a potential mentor? These steps should help in securing a mentor-mentee relationship:
- Request for an initial meeting, usually through an email or call; never send a text message because it’s considered rude. Your reason for a meeting can be to seek his insight, advice, or tips on a certain issue.
- Request for your desired relationship on the second meeting. You can determine on the first meeting whether you made the right decision or you should find another.
If your prospective mentor agrees to the relationship, usually through an open door policy, then you’ve just accomplished an important step.
Nurturing a Meaningful Mentor-Mentee Relationship
Finding your mentor is the challenging part and nurturing your relationship with him is the rewarding part. Well, of course, you should still do the hard work – every successful relationship requires hard work, by the way – but it’s more fun this time around.
Here are tips that we’ve found useful in this matter.
- Meet on a regular basis.
Your regular meetings with your mentor is an effective way of keeping in touch and, thus, nurturing both the personal and professional aspects of your relationship. You can discuss a wide range of issues, from measuring your progress and making adjustments to your plans to catching up on relevant personal matters, if you’ve established a more personal relationship.
But be flexible about your meeting schedule. Keep in mind that your mentor has a life of his own, too, and you have to respect his time if you want him to respect yours. Set a schedule but don’t be rigid about it.
- Agree on an agenda before each meeting.
You don’t want to waste the opportunity to learn from your mentor by adopting a laissez-faire approach during your meetings. You should have an agenda, present it to your mentor, and get his agreement so your meeting will be productive. You may be facing several issues but pick just one or two issues affecting your career or business and focus on them.
Most important, be sure to listen to what your mentor has to say! You have him, after all, because he has something that you want to learn from and the best way to do so is through active listening.