8 Things Mentors Want in a Mentee

Young and up-and-coming executives and entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for someone whom they can learn from.  They want someone who will take their idea to the next level.  Someone whose wisdom acquired in a certain field can be the key to having the next multimillion or billion-dollar enterprise.  Mentoring programs are often so caught up in the satisfying a potential protégé’s needs that they are likely to overcome a key factor in the mentor-mentee relationship.  What’s that you ask?  Simply put, they are overlooking a simple question:  What is the mentor looking for in a mentee?  The answer lies in eight qualities mentors want out of their prospective mentees.

One Person's Mentoring Experience_suzzanne uhland_mentoring
Image courtesy of NASA APPEL at Flickr.com
  1.    Commitment to the task at hand

Mentors are usually high level executives or someone who is well recognized in a certain area.  As such, their time is quite valuable and there is no room for slacking off.  They know first-hand that sacrifice and success go hand in hand.  Mentors want a protégé that is willing to make sacrifices and work harder than anyone to achieve his or her goals with a little guidance from someone who has been there and done that.

  1.    Flexibility matters

A good mentee should leave stubbornness at home.  Being able to take a mentor’s advice and suggestions without getting upset is key in a successful mentor-mentee relationship.  Mentors have a wealth of experience from years of practice.  Mentees must be open to accepting that this experience is valuable and take it as a tool rather than an imposition.  While a mentee might have a great idea, the approach on how to get it off the ground might not be the best one.  Good mentees are willing to change strategies for the benefit of the cause.

  1.    Someone proactive

Taking suggestions is important.  Analyzing the advice given, considering new paths, and proposing ideas is also.  Mentees should not wait for the mentor to tell him or her what to do next.  They must feel empowered to make choices and propose other points of view with the mentor.  It will always be better to bring someone back down to earth than to constantly keep pushing them.

  1.    Humbleness goes a long way

Once again, mentors are educated and experienced and with great amount of wisdom when it comes to what they do.  Sharing this experience could sometimes go against what the mentee has in mind.  It’s very important for a protégé to take a mentor’s knowledge humbly, understanding that their track record speaks for them and that any advice handed down will always be to help the protégé rather than hold them back.

Hanging Out_suzzanne uhland_mentor and mantee_motivated to succeed
Image courtesy of Sam Antonio Photography at Flickr.com
  1.    Motivated to succeed

Mentors want someone with the drive to succeed.  They want a mentee who will not stay down when failure slaps them in the face but rather take the blown, dust off, and keep on going.  Mentors want mentees to look at failure as a how not to do something rather than a stopping point.  A mentee must analyze what went wrong and make decisions on how to ensure it won’t be repeated.  A positive attitude toward the goal helps a lot as well.  Mentees should always keep their goal in mind and strive to give their all to reach it.

  1.    Curiosity will not kill this cat

Mentors are willing to share their knowledge.  A lot of times they will provide it based solely on what they see.  Mentees must be curious and ask questions to get as much of it as possible.  Mentor advice can only go so far.  A protégé needs to make well thought queries that will allow him or her to take as much advantage of the mentor’s vast experience.

  1.    Honesty

Mentees have to be upfront with everything going on with their endeavor.  A mentor cannot guide them along the right path unless they have all the information.  Trust is a two-way street, so mentors must also be completely honest.  This could be the make or break trait in a mentor-mentee relationship.  If both sides are honest with each other, it should grow into something productive.  If not, the relationship will surely come to an end sooner or later.

  1.    Gratitude

Yes, mentors are there two ensure a protégé gets ahead in life and that a project is successful.  And yes, some could even say it’s their responsibility.  Gratitude will take you places and it something that mentors appreciate greatly.  Acknowledging and saying thanks to a mentor for his or her efforts, time, advice, and knowledge builds a better, more trustworthy and long lasting relationship between a mentor and a student that will reap benefits for years to come.

A mentor choosing the most suitable mentee is just as important as a mentee picking a mentor.  Knowing what a mentor wants out of a future protégé can be really useful to ensure that a mentor-mentee relationship starts off on the right foot.

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Great mentees make great mentors

We all agree that mentoring is remarkably important and that being a mentee represents a powerful opportunity to grow.  For a lot of us, whether we are college students, company employees, lawyers or people from any discipline who desire to succeed in their ventures, we would not be where we are today if somebody else had not helped us.  A mentor could be a college professor, a more experienced coworker or someone with firsthand experience about business negotiation, teamwork, business foundation, law or any other field, that is willing to invest time and experience that can turned us around and put us in the path of success.  However, the responsibility in mentoring is not entirely delegated to the mentor only.  This is not a passive relationship where mentors are the givers and mentees are comfortable receptacles of invaluable knowledge. The truth is that in order to get a great mentor you need to be a great mentee.

Mustang Mentoring_suzzanne uhland_how to be a good mentor
Image courtesy of Brian Ujiie at Flickr.com

Here are some pointers that should be kept in mind when thinking about the role of a great mentee.

  • Being a mentee is a job as well.  Do not expect your mentor to do all the work for you.  He is a helper and a facilitator, but he will never accomplish what is yours to do. Show proactivity and intention to accomplish your agreed upon objectives.
  • Be committed. Come prepared to the meetings. Meet regularly and avoid cancelling.  When you are together, listen to your mentor. Have specific questions.  Know what you want to learn and take notes. That disposition shows that you are not wasting time. If a mentor is going to willingly give a couple of hours of his likely busy day, spending quality time with mentees, giving good advice, the least you can do is show your commitment.  Mentees who receive good insight and do not implement it are very likely to lose their mentor.
  • It is a two way relationship. Add value to your mentor as well.  Ask about things your mentor is interested in and send him articles, blogs entries, links about those things.  This will enrich your meetings, provide more topics for discussion and encourage your mentor in his personal growth as well.  If you know somebody that can be helpful for your mentor’s concerns, connect him with that person.  Express how your mentor has been helpful to you and give thanks.  You will find that your mentor will be more encouraged to give without being asked.
  • The call off.  There might be a point when mentoring can be modified or come to an end.  What this means is that is better to be honest about the moment you sense you have learned what you required to learn and ask your mentor if you can be introduced to someone else that can teach you about their expertise.  It is better to discuss these issues and deal with them and thus, give this valuable relationship the opportunity to be reconsidered in positive way.  
  • Pay it forward.  The way you have received guidance and experienced the benefits of being mentored, you should be able to give it back to other people.  Become a mentor to somebody else, whether it is a peer or a subordinate, a close friend, relative or a new acquaintance.  Help the way you have been helped.
Mustang Mentoring_how to be a good mentor_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Brian Ujiie at Flickr.com

Great mentors are recognizable as well.

  • A mentor would want to be prepared and give the best advice possible for great mentees.  When a person shows interest in being mentored, a great mentor would ask what they are interested in learning, what is important to them and be prepared to help.  
  • Great mentors will assign something to see if the person shows the dedication to do it.  If a mentee is not interested enough in the topic or does not want to be mentored that baldly, and obstacle or challenge will clearly show that.  People who are really interested accept challenges and do them willingly and that lets the mentor how much they care.
  • Great mentors ask their mentees about the things they want to learn that they have not been able to teach, and if they do not know about the topic they will introduce their mentees to a friend that has expertise in that area and can guide them in new mentoring.

It is true that a major factor in any successful person’s life is that they had people who mentored them and helped them.  Mentoring is helping someone not make the same mistakes you made or speeding up their learning by giving them the essentials, the key things, the key ideas, suggestions and feedback.  All of these things are invaluable.  Mentoring is critical and has a huge impact on life. If you were mentored you owe to this wonderful people that once helped you to pay it forward and help others be successful as well.