By Meg Cotiguala
A mentorship can be a great tool for accelerating your career. But, if you’re a young professional, where do you start? Initiating and building a mentor relationship, not to mention setting the relationship up for success over the long run, can be daunting.
Here are five tips on how to find and get the most of a mentor relationship:
· Don't force the relationship, let mentorship flow naturally – whether you're participating in a formal networking program at your office or have a more informal setup with your mentor, enough can't be said for letting the relationship flow naturally. A mentorship should be something that both parties are eager to be part of. If it’s forced, you’ll feel it. That won’t bode well for getting the most out of your mentorship. All this being said, effort is required on both the part of the mentor and mentee – you get out what you put in!
· Think of mentoring more as building your network – expand your definition of mentorship. That is, there is true value in building a vast network of people who can serve as mentors and help you grow in different aspects of your life. Build a personal ‘board of directors’ who work across a range of industries and have an array of skills and experiences whom you can tap for advice and guidance throughout the course of your career.
· Bring something to the table if you're a mentee – a mentorship should be a mutually beneficial relationship. If it’s one-sided all the time, chances are it won’t last. Mentees can help mentors in a variety of ways, from providing valuable insight on how strategy is being implemented with boots-on-the-ground staff to lending perspective on up-and-coming trends. The point is, a mentee needs to bring something of value to the relationship too.
· Don't be afraid to directly ask for someone to be your mentor – you don’t know whether someone would be open to being your mentor until you ask. Asking can be as simple as saying, “Hey – I really appreciate the time and advice you’ve given me. Would it be OK if I checked in from time-to-time?” The top suggestion on making the ask – just do it! Oftentimes, the most challenging hurdle to overcome is your own self-consciousness of asking. It is advisable that you only formally ask someone to be your mentor after you’ve got a couple of meetings under your belt and are confident you ‘click’ with each other.
· Set goals, both short-term and long-term – putting some definition behind what you want to get out of your mentor relationship is key to making it successful over time. Goals can be as narrow as wanting to improve public speaking and presentation confidence or as general just having someone you can go to throughout the evolution of your career who you trust to give you honest feedback about an idea or career move.
With a little strategy and forethought – and knowing what mistakes to watch out for – a mentorship can be a long-lasting, fruitful relationship that helps young professionals up their game and accelerate their professional growth.