Mentorship Is a Two-Way Street

Author: Angela Campiere       

You can spend hours perfecting your resume, preparing for interviews, and practicing your why-I-deserve-a-raise pitches. Sometimes, though, what you really need to move your career forward is the advice of someone who has been there before — a mentor. Whether that someone is a colleague at your organization or a business-events professional whose work you admire, a mentor’s insights can be invaluable in your professional development. Perfecting the mentee/mentor relationship comes down to two important dynamics: finding the right mentor and being a good mentee.

Choosing a Mentor

The first step on the path to a fulfilling mentor relationship is finding the right person to engage with. Asking someone you admire to be your mentor might be scary, but keep in mind that the relationship might also be to their benefit. Sixty-two percent of CFOs surveyed by Robert Half Management Resources said they had been a mentor at some point in their career, and 38 percent of those who have mentored before said that the biggest benefit of being a mentor was the ability to improve their leadership skills while cultivating the mentor/mentee relationship.

When I’ve sought out mentors of my own in the business-events industry, I’ve asked myself these five questions:

  1. Is this person committed to their success in the business-events industry?
  2. Do they routinely take on tasks that are outside of their job purview?
  3. Are they well-connected within the industry and engaged in keeping up with the latest industry news?
  4. Are they easy to talk to or are they usually too busy to approach?
  5. Will they be able to make time for you or can you tell that they are already stretched thin?

Remember that asking someone to be your mentor is asking them to invest significant time and energy in you, so make sure you’re willing to hold up your end of the deal.

Being a Good Mentee

Just as choosing the right mentor is critical to a successful mentoring relationship, being a good mentee is equally important. Your mentor shouldn’t be the only one committing to your future success. Here’s what I’ve done as a mentee to make this relationship a productive one.

  • Set goals for what you want to get out of your mentoring relationship and communicate those with your mentor. Letting him or her know the direction you want your career to take or the areas in which you’d like to improve will help them organize valuable meetings and make the most of your time together.
  • Be mindful of your mentor’s busy schedule and let him or her set the timeframe for your meetings. Understand that sometimes face-to-face meetings might not be possible — phone calls, video chats, or instant-messaging sessions can keep the mentorship moving along.
  • Make self-improvement a priority. In other words, don’t be a passive participant. Put the advice and wisdom your mentor has given you into action every time you get the opportunity to do so. And demonstrate that you are actively seeking other avenues of professional development, including reading industry content, participating in webinars, and attending education sessions.
  • Remember that mentorship is a two-way street and your ideas and opinions are just as valuable to the big picture. According to the Robert Half survey, 15 percent of the CFOs surveyed said that one of the biggest benefits of mentorship is that connecting with protégés helped them to stay current on industry trends and technologies. Share articles or blog posts you think your mentor might find of interest or navigate them through the newest social-media update. It might seem small to you, but it can go a long way in showing your appreciation for their expertise.

Now that you are on your way to setting up a successful mentoring relationship, find out what you can do to get more meaningful feedback in the workplace.

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