Los Angeles–Written by Nicole Bastos, Staff Writer
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
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
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.