I had a fairly successful career without a mentor/mentee relationship, but I learned how important they can be and tried hard to find those relationships for many of the people that worked for me and became a mentor to many others. That said, just because you put two people together, doesn’t mean it works.
So how can you get the most of a mentoring relationship?
1. Find someone you respect. Look within your own organization or network for someone you admire. Maybe they’ve been successful with a similar background or are well respected in their field. Try to find the connect points that can provide an introduction. Maybe it’s your boss or a mutual friend. If need be, just call him or her directly. If they say no, they may be able to introduce you to one of their peers.
2. Know ahead of time what you want. Before you connect for the first time, make a list of what you hope to get out of the relationship. Do you want career advice, someone to confide in, someone to help open doors, or all three? Make sure your mentor understands your expectations up front. You may end up with someone else if they aren’t comfortable in the role you’ve laid out for them.
3. Set up regular meet times. It’s likely your mentor is very busy, so setting up a regularly scheduled time will work better for both of you. It doesn’t need to be in person, but it needs to be on both calendars. You also need to set up the time limit, usually no more than an hour.
4. Make sure you like each other. Seems obvious, but just because you respect someone, doesn’t mean you like them. Just like a blind date, you’ll know after the first meeting if you have the kind of chemistry that will make for a long lasting and fruitful relationship. Don’t be shy about saying you don’t think it’s working. If you feel that way, I guaranty your mentor feels the same.
5. Keep your mentor in the loop. I’ve mentored people that one day just disappear. Once the relationship has been established, your mentor has a vested interest in knowing how you’re doing. Strong mentoring relationship can survive well after you’ve moved to another city or another job. It’s in your best interest to stay connected. Keep them up to date on what your doing. Not only are they personally interested in your success, you never know when you might need them down the road.
Having a strong mentor can help accelerate your career, become a confidante, and provide personal and professional feedback. Most importantly, a strong mentoring relationship can become a lifetime friendship.