So, you’ve found a mentor…what now? The tips below will tell you how you can get the maximum benefit from this new relationship.
Be honest. Communicate your shortcomings clearly. If you didn’t need a mentor, you wouldn’t be seeking one, so don’t hide your imperfections or gloss over them. Clarify your needs and skill gaps. Provide your mentor with insight on how you learn best and whether you require structured guidance or gentle supervision.
Manage up. Take responsibility for the relationship between you and your mentor. You’re the one that needs to set goals, clarify your strengths and weaknesses, track your progress, schedule meetings, and set agendas. Ask questions to gain insight, verify or clarify, and show interest. Your mentor is their to guide you, but you need to be managing the relationship to make their job easier.
Be consistent. Set a regular meeting schedule and stick to it. Setting a schedule will help you stay on track. Your mentor will also be better able to guide you and keep on top of your progress. You can meet for coffee or have a phone conference once a week, but regular interaction is very important if you want to get the most out of your mentor.
Create agendas for meetings. To make your meetings more productive, create an agenda in advance. You don’t have to stick to the agenda, but it’s a good idea to use it as a rough guideline. During meetings, don’t let the conversation wander to topics that aren’t relevant. Keep the small talk to a minimum and focus on the reason you’re both there.
Set goals. The key here is to aim for the moon, but keep your goals achievable. Instead of setting a lofty, difficult goal, set smaller, more realistic goals. This will help keep you from becoming discouraged and will make achieving your bigger goals (that trip to the moon, for instance) more manageable. Create specific, written goals with hard deadlines. If you don’t know where you want to be within six months or one year, your mentor won’t know how to guide you best.
Ask. Ask. Ask. Your mentor is there to guide you, but you need to help them know where you need guidance. Ask tons of questions, even if you think you may already know the answers to them. Your mentor may (and often will) surprise you with a perspective you never considered.
Accept feedback gracefully. Nobody enjoys being criticized, even when the mentor communicates that criticism tactfully and positively. Mentors understand that some of their feedback may bruise your ego. There’s a right and wrong way to accept that feedback. The right way is to accept it, thank the mentor, and ask them how to correct that problem as you move forward. The wrong way is to throw a tantrum, curse out your mentor, or get combative. To get the most from your mentor, encourage feedback and embrace it.
Ask for reasoning. Your mentor should always have a solid reason to justify the advice they give you. Ask them for it. Never be scared to ask, “Why?” Open the door for discussion. It’s not enough to be given the advice, you have to understand the lesson behind it, so have your mentor share their experience with you.
Apply the lessons you’ve learned. What’s the point of asking for advice if you aren’t going to take it? You certainly don’t have to apply every piece of advice you receive, but the purpose of having a mentor is to obtain guidance from someone more experienced and successful. If you’re going to ask for advice and not utilize it, you’re better off not wasting the mentor’s time. Following through on your assigned tasks will demonstrate to your mentor that you’re committed and willing to take the steps necessary to better yourself.
Notate your experiences so you can discuss them with your mentor. When you begin implementing the solutions your mentor offers, document it. Show the mentor the changes you’re making and how they’re affecting you professionally and your business. For many mentors, this is our payment. It makes us feel good to see that our advice is contributing to your success. Additionally, this might also help your mentor fine-tune their strategy to suit you better.
Follow your mentor. Read your mentor’s published articles, attend their lectures, or shadow them in their salon. Receiving advice is great, but nothing is as effective as spending a day with them and watching them work.