You've found a potential mentor to help you with business issues, and you have approached her to mentor you. What comes next? Now you need to establish the mentor/mentee relationship in a way that is manageable and beneficial for you both.
As a mentee, you are opening yourself up to constructive criticism and to receive insights, advice and contacts for your business. As you prepare for your initial meetings and conversations with your mentor, here are some things to consider.
1. Clearly articulate your goals for the relationship for yourself and your mentor.
Know what you are looking to get out of the connection. Maybe you need to work on specific skills, or maybe you are just looking for the kind of perspective and wisdom that only comes from experience. Let your mentor know your needs, and then set goals for the relationship from there. Keep in mind that she, too, may have expectations for the engagement, and you should be open to incorporating them into your plan.
While you are at it, set up expectations for how often you will meet - whether in person or online, and what other methods of communication work best for each of you. Start with a clear idea of what you will ask of your mentor to avoid discomfort later. Establishing these guidelines early on will lay the groundwork for the relationship to flourish naturally.
2. Be ready to act on the results of your new mentoring relationship.
After you’ve met, do the follow-up that shows your mentor her time with you is well spent and that her guidance matters to you. Follow up if she connects you with another person or organization. If there is some good reason a connection can’t be made, at least be sure to let her know so that she can close the loop herself.
If your mentor suggests new practices for you to adopt as part of the advice she is providing, give it a shot, and let her know the outcomes. If you feel you’re unable to implement her ideas, be honest with her - and yourself - as to why you can’t. This can be good fodder for future conversations between you, and a great learning experience for you both. A willingness to learn, adapt, and try new things will stand you in good stead as you chart a course for your business.
3. Be an open book with your mentor.
Trust is paramount in a mentoring relationship, and while in the beginning your communications may be more formal or structured, as the relationship between you develops, that trust will become a critical foundation to open communications.
Honoring confidentiality is an essential part of establishing trust. Have a discussion about whether anything said between you is in confidence. Another part of trust is meeting commitments and expectations. If you are establishing a regular schedule for communication, make sure that you fulfill your end of the bargain. If you feel she’s not meeting hers, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask for clarification.
Share your professional news and updates with your mentor, especially if it’s been a while since you last met or spoke. She’ll want to hear about victories and challenges, so give her a chance to celebrate with you.
4. Show appreciation.
A simple “thank you” goes a long way. You do not need to bend over backwards or send elaborate holiday gifts as an expression of gratitude. The actions you take regularly: being in touch to share your news, respecting your mentor’s time, and learning from her wisdom do most of the work of showing how much you value her time.
Once you land a mentor, always remember that the mentor/mentee relationship is a two-way street and look for ways to be a good mentee. Your mentor will be glad to see you growing and developing competencies as your relationship matures. She may also look to you for your insights and assistance in areas that are new for her.
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