Three top tips to take full advantage of your mentor’s time

Last week, I shared my top tip to help mentors maximize the value of their mentoring relationships. If you missed it, you can read more here. This week, we turn our attention to the role mentees play in the success of these relationships, and my top tips for helping mentees take full advantage of their mentor’s time, advice and expertise.

It takes two

As I shared last week, mentoring is a reciprocal relationship. Just as mentors need to take the time to understand the specific context in which their mentee is operating (as we discussed in detail last week), mentees also need to be prepared to put in cognitive effort to extract value from these exchanges. That means putting in the effort to prepare for the meetings in advance, to interpret and adapt their mentor’s advice to solve particular problems, and being ready and willing to take a risk. 

Tip #1: Be prepared

The easiest way to ensure that you are maximizing the value of your time with your mentor is to be prepared. If you have been well matched with your mentor, you will find yourself working with somebody you admire, or who holds a position you aspire to hold in the future. As the mentee, you have a choice: you can take full advantage of every minute with your mentor, or you can squander the opportunity. If you don’t take control and help your mentor to focus the discussion, they may end up sharing irrelevant or generic advice that doesn’t apply to your current challenges or priorities. You will walk away dissatisfied, with lots of unanswered questions, and your mentor will feel like they aren’t making a substantial contribution to your development. Time is a valuable commodity, so it’s important that you both feel that each scheduled session feels like time well spent. Take at least 30 minutes in advance of each meeting to think through how you would like to focus your discussion, or which particular challenge you’d like their advice on. This will make each mentoring session infinitely more productive.

Tip #2: Play an active role in your own mentoring

Once you have defined how you would like to focus your time with your mentor, your work is not complete. Successful mentoring relationships require active participation from the mentee. You are looking to your mentor to leverage the benefit of their experience to help you solve problems or develop your skills. Even if your mentor hasn’t been through exactly the same challenge as you, it does not mean that strategies that worked well for them in another context won’t be helpful. While a good mentor will make a conscious effort to tailor their advice to your situation, a good mentee doesn’t just take a mentor’s advice at face value. You also have to take responsibility for your own development: listen to what your mentor is saying and think about how it can be interpreted or adapted to suit your circumstances.

To really make this work, it’s important that you let your guard down, and trust your mentor. If you don’t open up, and give your mentor the full picture, they won’t be able to tailor their advice to your situation effectively.

Tip #3: Take a risk

Once you’ve adapted your mentor’s advice to fit your situation, you have to be willing to take a risk and act on it. This goes hand in hand with staying open minded when your mentor offers advice. Sometimes your mentor will tell you want you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. A good mentor won’t be afraid to shed light on your blind spots. If you stay open to that feedback, it will no doubt feel uncomfortable, but it will pay dividends once you push through that discomfort. Making a change to your behavior is challenging. However, it’s only by taking action, experimenting and assessing the results or feedback from it that you will develop, learn and start to really reap the rewards of your mentoring relationship. 

Still struggling to make your mentoring relationship work for you? Get in touch!