If you are struggling with your career direction and could use some advice, a mentor can be a great choice. But it is important that you choose your mentor wisely and also that you are a responsible mentee. Help to create a win-win situation from a mentoring experience.
Choosing a Mentor
Ideally, a mentor should be someone who is living the lifestyle and doing the work you want to do. You need someone who has arrived, not someone who is also struggling to get established or who is finding their way. A mentor should be a few steps to miles ahead of you in the areas you are seeking mentoring on.
Ask yourself, is my mentor:
- Making more money than me?
- Well known and respected in the sector we are in?
- At a higher level e.g. an executive, senior manager, award winning salesperson etc.?
- More educated than me?
- More skilled or experienced than me?
You want to choose a mentor that has achieved the goals you are trying to achieve. It is best to not ask someone to mentor you until you have established that they are a good choice.
Mentor versus Career Coach
A mentor does not take the place of a career coach and a career coach does not take the place of a mentor. They generally have separate roles. A career coach develops an action plan with you and keeps you progressing on your plan. You pay a coach to meet with you regularly and to keep you on track. Career coaches also provide exercises and other tools to help you gain clarity. A career coach should also be highly trained or experienced in conducting coaching conversations.
A mentor is usually someone who you work with on a more casual arrangement. You may meet with your career coach weekly whereas your mentor once a month or more sporadically when needed and when they are available. Successful people are often very busy so expecting a mentor to meet with you weekly for free is a lot to expect.
Being a Good Mentee
Treat your mentoring meetings like gold. A mentor is volunteering their time so as a mentee you should come highly prepared for the meetings. Come with a list of questions, or better yet, send them in advance to your mentor. Limit your questions to five or six for a 30 minute meeting.
Always arrive five to ten minutes early to your mentoring appointments. Treat each appointment like a job interview because it may lead to opportunities you didn’t expect – including a new job.
Keep your expectations reasonable with your mentor. Do not expect them to re-write your resume, proposal or marketing materials. They can give you tips and suggestions but expect to do the work. The same goes for a business plan, manuscript or other documents you’d like their feedback on.
If a mentor provides a lead or a referral to someone, follow through. There is nothing more damaging to a mentor-mentee relationship than lack of follow through on the part of the mentee. It negates the whole purpose of the relationship.
Thank your mentor for their time and energy. A nice card from time to time is a great gesture. A small gift to show your appreciation is appropriate if your mentor is someone you have found on your own, not mentoring you as part of a volunteer or service organization’s mentoring program.
If you have an experience with a mentor or challenges finding a mentor that you’d like to share with readers, please do in the comment section.
Copyright © 2014 Joni Rose of Career Minded Consulting Services. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright. Please contact Joni Rose for reprint permission.