Are you considering getting involved in mentoring, either as a mentor or mentee?
When it comes down to it, mentoring is all about marketing. If you are a person who is seeking a mentor, chances are you are looking for help developing and building your personal brand and marketing yourself. If you are a seasoned professional looking to mentor others, you are also marketing your expertise to draw in potential mentees who are a good match to benefit from your skill set.
During my professional career, I’ve been lucky enough to be both a mentee and a mentor. I’ve been able to leverage the knowledge of other business leaders to build my brand and reputation. I’ve also had the honor to mentor more than 5,000 professionals, helping them identify their unique skill sets and promote their expertise. Based on these experiences, I have a lot of insight about what makes for a successful mentor/mentee connection.
Here are my top tips for both mentors and mentees on how get the most out of a mentoring relationship:
Don’t let fear get in the way
For many ambitious executives and entrepreneurs, their biggest fear is admitting they don’t know something. This feeling of being exposed as inexperienced or unqualified can prevent them from seeking out a mentor.
Potential mentors should also not let a fear of “imposter syndrome” stop them from making themselves available to potential mentees. Be transparent about what your areas of expertise are, and be clear about the kind of help you can offer.
Don’t let fear sabotage progress!
Successful people know that the smartest and easiest way to grow professionally is connecting with an experienced person who will help you learn the things you need to know to grow and move forward. Every mentoring relationship is unique and clear communication about expectations and goals from both participants will guarantee a good match and a satisfying outcome.
Do your due diligence
For mentees, it’s very important to pinpoint what specifically you are seeking in terms of support. You may be looking to advance or depart your current industry, start your own business, or want to build your personal skills. Once you’ve established some precise goals for yourself, you will need to do your due diligence to find the right mentor to help you achieve your goals. Make a list of possible mentors and research each person’s background. Single out those who have the expertise you are seeking. Once your list is narrowed, reach out with a polite but direct request for help and advice.
On the mentor’s side, your “due diligence” is to make sure you have the expertise to help a mentee reach their goal. Mentor/mentee relationships are all unique, and not every mentor is a good fit for every mentee. If you think you aren’t the right person for the job, be direct if you are going to turn down a request. It will save valuable time, both for you and for the individual making the request.
Set the ground rules
The most important step a mentor can take when establishing a mentoring relationship is to set firm, detailed ground rules and communicate them clearly to the mentee from the start. For example, determine when you will meet, for how long, and where the meetings will take place – on the phone or in person. Establish which topics will be covered. Detail any follow up that will be needed and plan when/if you will meet again. Emphasize the value of your time (and theirs) and outline your expectations in regards to being on time, not completing agreed-upon tasks, or (heaven forbid) not showing up for planned meetings. Let the mentee know how you plan to hold them accountable. It seems harsh at first, but establishing these rules keeps everyone on the same page.
Once the ground rules are set, the most important thing a mentee can do is to come to the first meeting prepared. You should have two or three well-defined questions that you want to explore with your mentor. Make sure what you are asking is within your mentor’s skill set and be specific about what your goals are.
A well-constructed mentoring relationship should be a great experience for both participants
It’s a great feeling to see a mentee put what you’ve taught them into practice and extremely satisfying to connect with a mentor who can provide you with insights and advice to help you and meet your professional goals.
A good mentoring relationship can be very rewarding for both mentor and mentee. By setting clear ground rules, establishing specific goals, outlining accountability, and investing in preparation, you can guarantee that both mentor and mentee get the most of the time invested.
Jodi-Tatiana Charles is the founder and “Brandographer™” of LCG Brands (@LCGBrands), a unique brand and marketing consulting firm dedicated to educating entrepreneurs, small/medium businesses (SMB/SMEs), and international professionals on the importance of growing their personal and corporate brands.