The value of mentoring is often discussed and those who have taken up the opportunity generally report positive outcomes. A good mentor relationship can help progress your career and support you through challenging times.
But how do you ensure you get the most out of your mentor relationship – both from a mentee and mentor perspective? It’s a big investment of time and effort (and sometimes money), so you want to ensure you’re prepared. What can you do even before being matched, or before your first contact with your partner to ensure you maximise the relationship?
When considering the need for a mentor
If you are thinking about joining a mentoring program or seeking a mentor to boost your career, it’s important to understand why now is the right time. Can you clearly articulate that to your mentor? You should also consider what outcomes you would like to achieve. How much time do you have to devote to catching up with your mentor and following up on any ‘homework’? The benefits of the program will be compromised if you can’t set aside the necessary time.
Your mentor will expect you to have a few very clear goals that you will work on together. A list of priorities that’s too long, or no clarity at all, will affect your success. What do you need the most help with, or which of your goals is the highest priority right now? Understanding your goals will also help to determine who is the best mentor for you. Choose whether you should enter into a formal program through an industry association, such as the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), or whether it should be more informal where you seek out a mentor with specific skills.
Before meeting with your mentor for the first time
Many formal mentoring programs will guide you through the process of preparing to meet your mentor for the first time. As the mentee, you should reach out first and introduce yourself. In fact, you should drive the process throughout, as the program is there for your benefit. Provide your mentor with your CV and some information about you: your background, your current role and challenges. It helps if they can understand why you have chosen to develop a mentor relationship at this point and how they might be able to help.
It’s also common to define a ‘mentoring contract’ when you first touch base. While it isn’t always necessary for this to be a formal document, it can help set the scene and articulate the responsibilities of each party, together with the commitment to meet at agreed times.
During the mentoring relationship
It is important to appreciate that your mentor is giving up their time to help guide you towards your goals. Of course they get a lot from the mentor relationship too, but don’t forget to be thankful and to respect their time. Take the initiative in setting up regular meetings and following up on any pointers your mentor might give. If your mentor extends an invitation to attend an event, join a group, or meet a connection, then ensure you take advantage of this wherever you can. Maximise the exposure and expand your networks and career opportunities through these introductions.
Maximising the mentor experience
As a mentor, you have a big role to play in ensuring the success of the mentoring relationship. While for you it might be a ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ relationship, there’s a danger in providing all the answers. One of the best skills you can develop in your mentee is a problem-solving mentality. Use questions and ‘breadcrumbs’ to help guide them on journeys of self-discovery. Be mindful of this when considering your own drivers for becoming a mentor.
You will both learn so much through participating in the mentor relationship. To maximise the benefit, start out on the right foot. Things will run far more smoothly and both parties are more likely to grown and learn from the experience.
Applications for AHRI’s mentoring program available exclusively to members opens in December. To express interest in the next intake for April 2017, or to find out more, click here.