Top 10 Tips to Maximize Your Mentoring
- Know your goals.
- As a mentee, you need to be in the driver’s seat of your mentoring relationships, not in the passenger seat.
- You need to know your career goals and be able to articulate them to your mentor.
- By knowing your goals, you will be in control of the path that you choose to take.
- Choose the best mentor(s) to meet your goals.
- You will probably need not just one but several mentors to be successful in achieving your career goals. It is up to you to find the best individuals to serve as mentors who will best meet your needs.
- How do you know who to ask to serve as your mentor9s)? Start with a clear understanding of your goals for a given mentoring relationship. Once you know your goals, look for experienced individuals who can help you meet some of those objectives, who are good listeners, and who are generous with their time.
- A good mentor will likely welcome the opportunity to assist you in achieving your personal vision and professional goals. The opportunity to mentor you can be a great source of personal and professional satisfaction for your mentor.
- Begin mentoring relationships by discussing mutual goals and expectations.
- It’s important to understand the framework and assumptions that each of you brings to the “mentoring table”. You and your mentor(s) should have a frank discussion of expectations.
- Discuss how frequently you will meet in person, communicate via phone or email and setup a means of contact in case of an urgent issue.
- Keep this discussion two-way, both mentee and mentor listening attentively and seeking to understand each other’s unique perspective.
- Practice the highest standards of professionalism.
- The core of mentoring is a commitment of trust and mutual respect between the mentee and the mentor.
- It is essential that the mentee and the mentor mutually agree that their discussions will be kept confidential. This will enable a mentee to try out preliminary ideas and directions before sharing in a wider venue.
- Take care to respect the boundaries of this relationship by being a true professional colleague.
- Learn to accept and give feedback.
- In a mentoring relationship, you will receive feedback and insight from a knowledgeable and caring colleague. But you need to be receptive to both kinds of feedback, positive and negative and learn to accept feedback that’s intended to improve your performance.
- Learn to listen carefully to this constructive feedback. Pay attention to how your mentor(s) offer constructive criticism and notice how you react to it.
- Good feedback is an art form that takes practice to deliver and be heard.
- Recognize that your path is your responsibility.
- Remember that you, the mentee, own the mentoring relationship. Bring your energy, passion, vision and enthusiasm.
- The best mentors are there to challenge you by asking great questions.
- Practice good communication.
- Learning to communicate effectively is a lifelong challenge. Mentoring relationships thrive on good communication; remember that your mentor cannot read your mind.
- Keep your mentor up to date on how things are going, provide feedback on how well a strategy or approach worked and try not to over interpret a comment from your mentor.
- Consider a periodic mentor checkup.
- Mentoring relationships can benefit from a regular evaluation. As a mentee, you should evaluate whether this relationship is still helping you. You might need to make a change in your mentoring team to meet your changing needs.
- Avoid burning bridges if it is time to move on.
- Move on with care if your mentoring checkup reveals that you need a different set of mentors to meet your goals. Assigning blame or fault to your mentor(s) is rarely a good professional strategy.
- Consider focusing your energy and efforts by carefully reviewing your goals, finding the best mentor9s) to meet those goals and being clear on goals and expectations with your new mentor(s).
- Enjoy the ride of a mentoring relationship with a trusted colleague.
- Over time, you will change from being a mentee to being a mentor yourself. Those that once served as your mentors will become your trusted and valued colleagues.
- Treasure these colleagues. Find time to laugh together and learn from your mentor’s wisdom, strength and commitment to creating the future, your future.
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Find a Mentor
Several internet sites offer suggestions on finding a mentor:
- 13 Tips on Finding a Mentor - US News
- For the Mentee or Protege - Educause
- How to Find a Mentor - IMDiversity.com
- How to Find a Mentor - wikiHow
- E-Mentoring for Diversity in Engineering and Science - MentorNet
MentorNet is a nonprofit e-mentoring network for those in engineering, science and mathematics, particularly but not exclusively women and others underrepresented in these fields. It matches “protégés” with mentors in both industry and academia. The site’s section for academic careers is at www.mentornet.net/documents/about/programs/academic.aspx.