How to Build a Great Relationship with a Mentor
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How to Build a Great Relationship with a Mentor

Research on the power of mentoring is pretty clear: Mentored people perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even experience greater work-life satisfaction. and mentors benefit too. after all, “teaching is learning twice”. Despite all these benefits, and while 76% of working professionals believe that a mentor is important for growth, more than 54% do not have that relationship.

Often the problem is that people don’t know how to find a mentor or establish a relationship. the following eight steps can help.

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1. define your specific goals and needs. get out a pen and paper and write down your career goals. make sure they are smart. then list some of the biggest obstacles to achieving them. This specificity will help you decide what kind of mentor to look for. maybe you need to develop new skills, expand your network in a specific industry, or build confidence to have some tough conversations. By first understanding where you want to be, as well as the biggest opportunities and gaps in getting there, you’ll identify how a mentor can really help you.

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2. Write your ideal mentor’s “job description.” Equipped with your goals and what you need to help achieve them, think about how a mentor can help. write the kind of mentor who can help you seize your greatest opportunities and/or overcome her challenges. be specific here. maybe you need someone who can help you get a project off the ground, make introductions to people at a certain level within a specific industry, or mentor you through a difficult negotiation. In your job description, be sure to also include the “why”; Just as companies want potential employees to understand their company’s larger purpose, explain why mentoring will tap into something bigger. be sure to include this job description when contacting potential mentors, so they know why you’re applying for a mentor and are more willing to help (covered in steps 4 and 5).

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3. Search for mentors through your second degree network. Mentors can be from anywhere. They can be from your LinkedIn network, professional connections, or people you’ve met at conferences. It’s important to remember that while people are certainly busy, being asked to be a mentor is a huge compliment. people may say no, but it will be a positive exchange and you shouldn’t be shy about thinking big and asking the questions, even if you think there’s no way the person can find time for you. let them be the judges of that.

4. ask the question (and keep it simple). asking someone to be your mentor the first, second, and even the third time is a bit awkward. Chances are you’ve never been asked to mentor someone else, or taught how to apply for yourself. embrace the uncomfortable feeling and be vulnerable. there is no harm that can come from asking, but take it easy. ask someone for a first conversation to learn more about their work and interests. once they learn more about each other, if there is a lineup, then have the older one ask for mentoring. Asking someone cold to be a mentor with a long email is too much to take in.

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5. Have a first meeting. You have two goals for your first conversation with your potential mentor. First, you need to determine if this person is really the right mentor for you. then find out if they are open to the idea of ​​mentoring you. How you approach the conversation is up to you, but in general, you’ll want to do these few things:

  • make it easy for the person. go somewhere convenient for them, have coffee (or tea) waiting, come prepared, and make the meeting comfortable and stress-free.
  • spend time getting to know the person. you probably want to talk less than 30% of the time.
  • It’s okay to ask for small favors early on. in fact, it might even help you build rapport.
  • ask a clear question: “I really enjoyed this conversation. would it be okay if i followed up with you again in a month after i made some progress towards my goals? /li>

6. start simple. for your next meeting, keep it simple and follow up based on your last meeting. Once the person confirms that they will meet with you again, send an email proposing an agenda and hinting at the idea of ​​a long-term relationship. something like: “in our next chat, i hope we catch up quickly, and then i would love to expand on our conversation from last time even more. I will come prepared with some specific questions that I think you could help me answer.”

7. create a structured accountability process with a mentoring agreement. after having a simple conversation or two, try asking a more formal question: would the person be willing to sit down with you once a month? during the next six months? months until you achieve your goal or solve your problem? If so, consider creating a simple one-page document outlining what you’ll accomplish in those six months together. While it may seem like a bit of a stretch, it will help you and your mentor have more clarity by helping you share the goal of the relationship. It will also help you set a clear agenda for each meeting. You can suggest this by saying, “I really appreciate your time and I really want to make sure I get the most out of it. I was thinking that I could put together a simple document that would share with you my goals, my commitment to you, and the milestones I hope to achieve in the next three months. I think it will help me hold myself accountable for being prepared for our conversations. would you be okay with that?”

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8. keep following up and saying thank you. You should definitely send a thank you note after every meeting. Beyond that, once your mentoring agreement comes to an end, you should continue to say thank you. I once had a trainee email me two years after our partnership. made my week! In return, I was also able to help make some new and interesting connections, and so was she. so she remembers, it’s okay to ask for a favor, just make sure you show the proper appreciation!

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