Mentoring Partnerships-Best Practices for a Mentee

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Los Angeles–Written by Nicole Bastos, Staff Writer  AAEAAQAAAAAAAAqBAAAAJDA3MWExOTAwLWJmOWQtNDAzMC1iNWRmLWE5ZTMxOTFmZTkzMw

Mentoring has become a buzzword in tech companies and corporate America looking to find ways to grow and retain talented employees. A good mentoring partnership can help boost your self-esteem, expand your professional network, and connect you to professional resources, but it is important to note that these things come when you are honest about where you are at, what you want, and if you are willing to put in the work. Like all other relationships, mentorships require time, effort, understanding, and patience.

While the traditional form of mentorship between an older, experienced person guiding a younger, less experienced person provides a basic definition of mentorship, we must be aware that the term is no longer black and white, and that it comes in many forms. Whether it’s formal, peer, group, or informal mentorship, here are five practices mentees can follow to get the most out of a mentoring partnership.

1. ESTABLISH GOALS and COMMIT TO THEM

A mentoring partnership works well when the mentor and mentee agree on the goals to be achieved and how your mentor can help support you. It is critical to not only tell your mentor, but show your mentor that you are taking steps to achieving your goals. Your mentor can then help outline the tasks you need to complete to achieve these goals and how your progress would be tracked. It is also good to agree on how you would communicate- whether it’s through in-person meetings, phone calls, or email-and how often. The mentor and mentee may discuss and choose a date for when the partnership ends, but if you are in an informal mentorship or have goals that can’t be boxed into deadlines, keeping your mentor updated on when your goals are reached ensures that you continue communication, whether or not you are working closely or starting to go your separate ways in the most positive sense. The commitment to your goals will reveal your growth regardless of how long your mentorship relationship lasts. This establishes credibility in your work ethic, your intentions, and your character.

2. SEEK HONEST CONNECTIONS

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Often times, we tend to create relationships based off of work, and that may be a good start, but it is not the glue that holds relationships together. As simple as it may seem, it’s important to be yourself. Working through the assignments that your mentor sets for you and executing them well may demonstrate your reliability but sharing your struggles, victories, and asking about theirs allows for a deeper connection. Mistakes, failures, and insecurities are part of your journey to success and sharing those challenges with your mentor will strengthen that relationship.

3. BE FLEXIBLE

A mentoring partnership opens up different ways of learning. Observe the mentor’s behavior in different situations. This can provide valuable clues about their success. Ask questions and be prepared to follow up. Listen to understand and apply new concepts to your career goals. Try new things and use the constructive criticism to analyze your strong and weak points. Treat each mistake you make as a learning experience.  If your mentor is unable to meet in person and can only talk during that event you’ve been looking forward to, set aside 15 minutes where you can step out to catch up with your mentor. If it means cutting a recreational activity short or having to wake up 30 minutes earlier to get the gym out of the way, it’s worth it. These doable sacrifices will have to be made, but it will establish consistency and keep you engaged with your mentor. Make sure to have a good attitude about the nights of hard work and the days where things don’t go as planned. When faced with change, flexibility is imperative and your attitude determines how pleasant or unpleasant those life shifts will be.

4. BE ACCOUNTABLE

Each time you display a willingness to accept a responsibility and see it through to completion, you are showing that you are accountable for your actions. This includes check-ins, updates, and prompt responses. Time is precious and people don’t have a lot of it. Through your actions, your mentor will see that you are respectful of their time. Accountability also involves being frank and knowing if you have the time to take on a new goal with the vigor and dedication it requires. Whether you get the chance take on a new task or are unable to present something with the rigor and quality it deserves, communicating this is part of being accountable. Although saying yes to multiple projects can be exciting and a great platform to show your abilities, you do not want to spread yourself thin. Remember that this is your mentor and although you want to show your best work, you do not want to risk a product or end result that is below your standard quality of work. This type of communication is key to practicing accountability with your mentor. It creates trust and gives you value. It is a trait that can take you far in your career and life.

5. BE GRATEFUL

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A mentoring partnership becomes possible through reciprocity and mutual respect. Gratefulness is a state of mind that needs to be tapped into. For many, gratefulness is a habit and must be practiced daily to get the best possible results from the journey. Just like any other kind of relationship, mentorship relationships take time and patience. Be grateful that this opportunity has paired you with someone who genuinely wants to help see you succeed. If it feels overwhelming, take a step back and look for all the positives in this relationship. A thank you card, phone call, e-mail, or text goes a long way! Practicing self-care and reflection is also part of being grateful. While there is no substitute for putting in the work to show your gratitude, gratefulness is a practice that can make your mentorship experience a life-changing one.

Mentoring partnerships work well in an environment of mutual trust and understanding. Ultimately, the best way a mentee can repay the mentor is by giving back to society. Make a promise to yourself that you would pay it forward, and that someday you too will reach out to help someone to handle responsibilities with confidence and determination.

Copyright July 24, 2017 by Nicole Bastos. Contact for usage license.

Follow Nicole on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Millennial Women: How to Approach Mentorship

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Los AngelesWritten by Nicole Bastos, Staff Writer AAEAAQAAAAAAAAqBAAAAJDA3MWExOTAwLWJmOWQtNDAzMC1iNWRmLWE5ZTMxOTFmZTkzMw

If you’re looking to launch or grow your professional career, it’s only a matter of time before someone suggests that you find a mentor. Almost seven out ten women consider formal mentorship a critical component to their success, according to a study by DDI World. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them – over 80% – have never benefited from this potentially life-changing relationship.

Mentoring provides opportunities to gain a broader perspective of the professional world, as well as to network and build social capital in their chosen industry. This is especially important for millennial women who often have difficulty penetrating the male-dominated environment of referrals and networking. If the relationship works, it can build leadership skills, value and character, and be a great boost to your reputation.

Know What You’re Up Against

If you are just starting your career, exploring different paths, or switching careers, hard work is required to reach your goals, but it is no secret that success is based on how you utilize your network. Understanding how others may perceive millennials is key to how millennial women approach mentorship.

Unfortunately, there is an apparent disconnect with millennial women and their would-be mentors. Many millennial women look up to an older generation. With this comes the stigma tied to millennial work ethic. Lazy, entitled, and self-absorbed are typical words used to describe millennials by other generations without keeping in mind that millennials face challenges other generations may not fully grasp. Recognizing this generational gap and knowing how to maneuver around this bias can help you gain an advantage to find the right mentor.

New Challenges and Perspectives

While women share similar experiences in regards to childcare issues, confidence issues or other gender-related challenges, these main barriers to growth may not necessarily unite them across generations. Social media constantly targets women and their bodies with images and messaging telling them how they should look, feel and behave. Consequently, these unrealistic physical standards of beauty are used to determine their worth. Plastic surgery is now more common than ever and the need for immediate reward combined with a need for social acceptance facilitated through technology creates a unique, unprecedented environment. Additionally, more millennial women have gone through higher education than men and have massive student loan debt, yet have not seen the rewards in their salaries, promotions, or job opportunities. They are settling down later and many choose not to have kids in order to focus on their careers. Rather than seeking work and life balance, their life is their work and their “sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction” as noted in the Harvard Business Review article, “Mentoring Millennials” by Jeanne C. Meiser and Kerie Willyerd. While every generation faced their own challenges, we cannot ignore what millennials face today, especially since “millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025” according to the Fusion Hill article, “Millennial Women: Facing Old Challenges in New Ways.” Understanding this shift in perspective will help make your mentorship journey one that increases your awareness as a millennial woman.

Finding a Mentor

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The best place to start is with your own network. Asking someone you’ve met or know of is a great way to find a mentor if you’re just starting out. If your network does not turn up any candidates, you could sign up for a women-focused networking event. Or you could participate on one of the online forums created specifically for women in your industry.

Use technology to help you with an initial connection, but do not rely on it to make the connection for you. While tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Slack channels may help get the conversation started, they are no match for face-to-face time and genuine connection, which is an interaction closely associated with older generations.

When you’ve identified someone you think might be a good candidate, it is wise to tread gently. Begin the conversation with an invitation to coffee and make sure you ask questions about the person’s experience and ethos to get a better idea of how you might work together. Avoid jumping in too hastily. Finding a good mentor is a process and you might have to talk to a lot of people before you find the right fit.

What to Look for in a Mentor

The person you approach should have the right qualities and industry experience to guide you on your journey. Ideally, you should choose someone you look up to; someone who has accomplished the same goals that you wish to achieve. Be clear about your goals with them and make sure to follow through.

The next step is to figure out whether you will be able to work well with this person. A good mentor will:

·     Listen

·     Help you to explore ideas

·     Suggest options and game plans

·     Encourage you to do things for yourself

·     Give you a reality check when necessary

·     Inspire you to achieve more than you could on your own

Be Flexible

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Many mentorship relationships are not defined at first. A potential mentor may or may not have the time for scheduled sit-downs or be open to a fixed schedule. Test the waters first. Seek mentoring moments by asking for help on one task or challenge at a time.  This is a great way to show dependability, willingness to learn, and passion. Being patient during this process is important because it is critical in building that rapport with a potential mentor. They are opportunities to demonstrate that you are coachable and considerate of their time. As this connection develops and deepens, you enter a space where it is safer to ask for formal mentorship, although it may not be necessary especially if you are accessing the information and opportunities you hoped to obtain. Showing hard work and the ability to actively seek solutions counters the millennial stigma and also sets a good example for other millennial women these potential mentors will likely encounter.

As millennial women make their mark in the workforce, mentorship remains a definitive way to open doors of opportunity for the leaders of tomorrow. While standards for working women change from generation to generation and technology’s influence re-shapes how we operate in the professional world, mentorship remains a solid avenue for millennial women to become successful professionals.

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Copyright June 21, 2019 by Nicole Bastos. Contact for usage license.

Follow Nicole on LinkedIn or Twitter.