Do you know what’s the best way to ensure you have a meaningful mentoring relationship? Sure it helps to have a great mentor. But you know what’s equally important? Showing up as a great mentee.
Over the years, we’ve both had times where we’ve had employees ask us to be their mentor, and then we ask them what they’re looking to accomplish in the first session, they just looked at us with a blank stare. It’s as if they were just waiting for us to start espousing sage wisdom.
Mentoring doesn’t work that way. To find a great mentor, start by showing up as a rock star mentee.
Five Ways to Show Up as a Better Mentee
Just like everything else in your career, the more you put in, the more you get out. Show up with a plan to launch an enriching relationship.
1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish
Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together. Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn? Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress. Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organization or support in expanding your network with a few key introductions. As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you both are clear on your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.
2. Be Truly Open to Feedback
If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you. Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.
3. Offer to Help
The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal—both human beings grow in the process. Ask what you can do to be helpful to them. Maybe it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing, teaching them a skill they don’t know, or making an introduction.
4. Bring Conversation Starters
The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward. Don’t leave it to chance. Why not come with a few “starter” questions.
- What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organization? Why? How can I best prepare to add the most value?
- I’m curious. What excites and energizes you about your work here? And, what drains or frustrates you? How do you manage this frustration?
- When you’re not at work, what are some of your favorite things to do? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
- What skills and behaviors you think are most important for success in my role? Do you have any advice for shortening the learning curve in that arena?
- Which skills and behaviors have helped you be successful here?
- Looking back over your career, what lessons do you wish you learned sooner?
The best mentoring relationships are grounded in deep-trust—and that takes time. Be patient and invest the time it takes to truly get to know and support one another.
The other day, Karin met with a millennial she’s been mentoring for some time. They met for lunch and before they’d even opened their menus he said, “I know what you’re going to ask. And no I haven’t done that yet.”
As a matter of fact, it was going to be the first question she asked because he’d committed to the same action in the last three sessions. As a mentee, if you want results, you’ve got to do the work, otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
Prefer Video? How to Be a Better Mentee– Asking for a Friend
If you like the idea of quick tip videos. Join me every Wednesday on my Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn.
What would you add? What advice do you have for helping an employee make the most of a mentoring relationship by being a better mentee?