Having a mentor can make a significant impact on your work and life. With their experience and guidance, mentoring can improve your performance and help you to reach your goals and ambitions.
Mentoring allows you to discuss career plans and set goals, test ideas and work through workplace challenges with someone who has been there and done that and is willing to share their experience from what has worked and importantly, what hasn’t. Your mentor will be your sounding board and confidant and will offer a fresh perspective on the challenges you may face.
Yet it can be a daunting prospect to be connected to someone more experienced and be expected to share your goals, ambitions and concerns.
Where do I start? What should I talk about? What outcomes should I expect? Should I trust my mentor? These are all questions we get asked regularly.
So if you have been offered a mentor as part of an organisational program or you have sought and found a great mentor yourself, here are some pointers on where to start and what to think about for a successful mentoring experience.
- Set goals and objectives. Firstly, discuss and agree upon goals and expectations for the relationship with your mentor.Think about what key areas you’d like to focus on. We find common topics for discussion are –managing up, across, down; strengthening leadership skills; building confidence in your voice and business decisions; influencing; broadening networks; clarifying your career path.These goals can be reviewed and adjusted, but it’s good to lay down some foundations in the beginning. Perhaps describe what a successful mentoring relationship looks like to you.
- Be proactive & do your homework. Be proactive – you need to drive the process and set the pace. Each meeting, prepare 3 points for discussion – they may be immediate workplace challenges or long-term goals. Follow up on any actions your mentor has set before the next meeting.
- Ask questions. Start the relationship by sharing your background and experience. This helps establish a rapport and build common ground on areas of interest and focus. Then ask questions throughout – how did your mentor approach a similar challenge? How did they make that career decision?
- Trust and confide. Confidentiality is paramount in a mentoring relationship. Once confirmed, trust your mentor to be there for you. They should have no agenda other than to offer you guidance and support.Confide and be open with them to get the most out of the relationship.
- Embrace feedback. Learn to accept feedback, listen and take the steps to apply what you have learned. As one of our mentors recently recommended “take a deep breath ….and see the feedback as a gift.”
- Thank and conclude. Like any professional relationship it is useful to have a formal conclusion. Thank your mentor for their time, input and interest. Agree on any further informal catch-ups. Let them know how they have assisted and challenged you.Remember – be honest, open to feedback and invest in the process. When done well, mentoring can be a powerful experience.