Here is Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we have talked about all the great benefits mentoring programs offer the organization and each of the individuals involved in this type of relationships that stimulate mutual growth. People are often skeptical about mentorships because they feel that it is perhaps too good to be true. The idea of having a person who is successful and much more experienced than yourself, helping you bounce ideas out of each other and providing you with a unique insight into your own professional field for free, is sometimes difficult to accept. Mentorships seem like a great deal but in a world as competitive as ours, it is difficult to simply accept something that apparently puts you in the position of being benefited without having to give anything up but your time in return.
The reason why people may think this about mentoring programs has more to do with our own ignorance of the role of a mentee than with any possible insidious nature hidden within a mentor’s motives. It is important to understand that successful mentoring relationships are a two-way street and that mentors have just as much to gain from them as mentees do. If you have been guilty of this mentality, then I invite you to learn a little more about the actual role of the mentee. And how being in the seemingly receiving end of the relationship, also comes with its own set of responsibilities and the need to give back.
Successful mentees that are able to make the most out of their relationship with senior individuals are those who seize the opportunities that arise when two minds work together on a single goal and are able to meet regularly to engage in that which they are passionate about.
One of the best ways to make your relationship become more reciprocal is to give a chance to your mentor to listen to what you have to say. Sometimes you have a lot to offer but neither of you are aware of the knowledge and experience you possess and that could be of great value. Mentors are people who are also looking to learn and will be happy to participate in activities that can turn into a learning experience. It is important that your fit with a mentor is based on a mutual understanding and you are both matched based on your personality and common values, since those type of pairings usually work best and spark the necessary curiosity that will allow both parties to become interested in each other’s set of skills and what they can teach one another. Simply being a good company and a genuinely interested individual can go a long way as a mentee.
Another aspect to consider is to be understanding and accepting of your role in the relationship and the fact that in most situations, it will be better for you as the mentee, to be flexible as to the dynamics of the mentorship. Your mentor may be a person who prefers to take on a coaching approach or perhaps they are more into answering questions and allow you to lead the course of the program. It is important for you to be aware of this and be respectful as to which type of relationship seems to be favored by your mentor.
Do not be afraid to talk about the things you know. Everyone is an expert at something and you have not achieved what you have thus far without being particularly good at something. Do not feel that your skills are irrelevant as you will be surprised how the things you know may change someone else’s life and in this case, help your mentor learn something or receive advice from a seemingly unlikely source. Something as common as the age or background difference can be a great place to start, as you can find many ways to teach your mentor something that you take for granted.
Feedback is a great way to show you mentor that you respect the work you do together and that you take seriously the time they invest in your development. When you give your mentor feedback, you are helping him or her expand their own leadership skills and grow as professionals. Mentoring sessions are an excellent opportunity to evaluate one’s outlook on leadership and to conduct experiments on a smaller scale in which a mentor can evaluate the way they guide an individual and assert their own experience in order to help someone else direct their efforts towards their own professional and personal development. Just like giving feedback, it is important to actually listen to advice and trust the person you are working with. There is nothing more frustrating than a mentee that doesn’t listen to advice, as it makes the relationship ineffective and the time spent together feel as it were wasted.
* Featured Image courtesy of Matthew Burpee at Flickr.com