Your potential can be turbo-charged simply by having an effective mentor in your life. The best place to be is in the middle of a mentoring sandwich; where you, the mentee, are being mentored by a more experienced person, and you’re also mentoring someone.
The beauty of being in the middle is you can teach what you learn from your mentor to your mentee – paying it forward, learning the skill of mentoring while simultaneously being mentored.
There are three basic steps to enter into a mentoring relationship:
1. Identifying potential mentors
2. Making the mentor request
3. Managing the mentoring relationship
How to Identify a Mentor
There are two ways to approach finding a good mentor fit.
You can identify individuals in roles you’d like to be in one day. Or, identify people that possess personal and professional characteristics that you admire and wish to develop.
Making the Mentor Request
When requesting a mentor, you should explain your goals, and why you chose that person as a potential mentor. Let them know the area of expertise or traits you value to provide guidance around potential topics for discussion.
Explain the time commitment you’re expecting from this person, and outline what your responsibilities are (more to come on this in a moment). For example, if you expect to speak to your mentor for an hour every other week, let them know so they can make an informed decision based on the time commitment.
When you’re asking someone to be your mentor, give them an easy out if they have to say no by stating, “If you’re unable to commit to a mentoring relationship, I completely understand. Based on the goals I’ve shared would you be able to recommend an alternate mentor if you’re unable?”
How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship
A mentee generally has the responsibility to take charge of her own developmental experiences. The mentee is also expected to have ownership over the direction and content of the mentoring relationship.
If you’re not sure what to discuss with your mentor, don’t worry. A few key questions will help guide your conversation.
For your first meeting, talk about each other’s expectations and make a formal or informal mentoring agreement to ensure you’re both aligned. In the second meeting, you can ask your mentor to share their own career journey, and ask if you may ask questions along the way. This creates an organic conversation to help you understand the path your mentor took to get to the current stage of their career.
Other topics and discussion questions to ask your mentor
- What difficulties did you encounter in your career? How did you overcome them?
- In your opinion, what have been the key success factors in your career?
- What do you know now, that you wish you knew earlier in your life and career?
- What advice you would offer people who want to make a breakthrough in their careers?
Once you’ve identified areas you’d like to develop, you can also ask your mentor to recommend books, blogs, or other resources to help you develop targeted competencies. Ideally, identifying the competencies required for a desired future role, and assessing your current competency against the target is the best way to identify areas for development.
A mentor should honor scheduled appointments, provide quality feedback, and positive development experiences. Some appropriate roles of a mentor are as follows:
• Recommends direction, identifies obstacles, provides coaching to overcome those obstacles
• Provides candid opinions in an open and constructive manner
• Assists in establishing and increasing your professional network
• Promotes and supports your understanding of organizational culture and expectations
• Facilitates discussion, interaction and the exchange of information
• Fully participate in the relationship
• Be open to constructive feedback and receive it gracefully
• Schedule meetings and agendas
• Show up on time, prepared for scheduled meetings
• Follow‐up on action items
• Identify and track goals
• Align key learnings from the mentor with your own situation
Mentoring is the single best way to become the best version of yourself. A mentor can help you unlock the gifts God has given you and bless the world with them.
‘Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm’ – Proverbs 13:20
This post was written by Kristin Sherry. Kristin is a member of the Crossroads Career Board of Directors. She is the best selling author of YouMap & Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? She joined our board in 2019 and lives with her husband and 4 kids in North Carolina.
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I am interested in being a mentor.