In “Finding a Formal Mentor- Part 1”, I talked about the importance of finding a mentor and why its important to maintain one. I told a story on how I thought having a mentor was a waste of time. People told me how their mentors talked more about themselves than providing their mentee advice on how to move forward. So, I felt it unnecessary to have one myself. Shoot, I felt I had so much experience… I could teach them a thing or two myself rather them teaching me anything. It wasn’t until I found the right one that I realized, having a mentor was more crucial than what I thought. Let’s touch on some reasons why and how a mentor can be valuable to you:
Experience will reward you, but building relationships will keep you
In order for you to move up, you have to perform well and become proficient at what you are doing. How do you expect anyone to promote you if you are not knowledgeable in their area of work? This is the first step. The second step is building relationships. You ever heard the saying- “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In my opinion, I personally can’t stand that statement b/c anyone who puts in the hard work, should be rewarded- and sometimes they are. However, nowadays companies would rather promote employees they trust and are certain they possess great work ethic. Yep, these are the employees that have usually “colored their nose brown” for the sake of being promoted. Ergo employees that built some type of relationship usually will get looked at first b/c they have become trustworthy.
They learn from you, just as much as you learn from them
Mentor: You know what Ro, I appreciate our times together b/c I learn from you just as much as you learn from me.
Me: Really, I didn’t realize that. How is that?
Mentor: Although I have more years than yourself, your level of expertise on certain subjects surprises me. As you are telling your story on how you handled certain situations, in my mind I’m thinking “wow, I wouldn’t have handled it that way but it worked; she just taught me something”.
Me: Wow, that means a lot coming from you. Let me also say, I’m honored you would admit you actually pick up techniques from myself. Some people are too proud since they have a higher pay grade or more years of experience, they feel they can’t learn anything from us youngins or at least admit to it! 🙂
Mentor: Oh no, I’m humble to receive feedback from anyone. I wish I can get it more often but unfortunately the higher you move up, the more you are looked at to give advice- not to receive it. I enjoy our sessions together just as much as you do for this exact reason.
Me: Awww thanks!
Don’t take for granted that you both can learn from each other. You never know what your mentor is going through and your session can be the moment you finesse their expertise. This is what I do- I ask them to tell me what’s new with their role. Usually, they go on a tangent about their situation b/c no one usually asks them. In the end, don’t be afraid to “coach up.” Basically, you are giving them advice from your own experience on how you will handle that situation. They will appreciate another point of view.
Their feedback may be more valuable than your leaders
Many times the main objective for your leader is to achieve their goals. It’s just a domino effect; their manager is pushing them to achieve goals so they will push you. Due to this reason, your leader will coach to performance more than they teach personal development. It’s a shame b/c so many employees come to me to vent, feeling their leader doesn’t care about their career growth; they seem to only care about their numbers. The employees feel comfortable venting to me b/c they know I can coach to performance and personal career growth. My advice would be to first talk to their leader; it’s important to remain transparent so that both of you have a level of trust for each other. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to their leader, then I suggest to obtain a mentor. A mentor doesn’t have any reason but to develop you- career wise- since numbers are not attached to them.
They will help you set S.M.A.R.T. goals
Have you heard of SMART goals? No, they are not goals made smartly- well maybe kind of, LOL– but seriously, the word SMART is an acronym for… SPECIFIC; MEASURABLE; ACHIEVABLE; RESULTS–FOCUSED; and TIME–BOUND. In a nut shell, clearly defining these goals should help you narrow down objectives you are trying to accomplish. Oh and don’t forget… because of the experience your mentor has, they can assist with providing structure for your goals.
5 Tips on What to Do Next
Before I end this post, I want provide 5 more tips on what to do while meeting with a mentor:
Set Expectations– Both of you should share expectations with each other so there is clear structure on what you both want to get out of the relationship. This should be done in your first or definitely by your second meeting.
Create Structure– Lay out your meeting times; how long you want to meet for; and how often you want to meet.
Stay Engaged– Don’t just speak to each other during meeting times. The point of obtaining a mentor is to a build relationship so do a couple of drive-bys (stop by their desk to say hello) or think of questions you can ask intermittently to show them you genuinely enjoy their advice.
Challenge Yourself– Make sure you set action plans after every session. You should NOT leave that meeting without giving yourself homework or making sure your mentor gives you a task to follow up on.
Show Gratitude– Finally, don’t forget to say THANK YOU! They are taking time out of their busy schedule to provide guidance and advice so you want to show them appreciation. Speaking as a mentor myself, I love to hear “i-stories”; tell me how my advice has helped you in a certain situation! That is more fulfilling to me than you spending your money to buy me a gift.
FEEDBACK IS A GIFT: What tip have you taken from this post? Why or how will it help you?