Finding great mentors and maximizing those relationship is something that most people don’t do well.
Mentors are another powerful tool to professional development (and career) success. Spending time with and learning from leaders is a great way to jump the learning curve.
This is something I’ve done extensively through my career. I just recently had a great dinner with one of my mentors, where we spoke for hours about project and portfolio management.
Finding mentors should be an easy process. The simplest definition of a mentor is an adviser or someone you look up to. There is no rule stating that a potential mentor has to be in your field or have a specific area of expertise. There’s a lot of benefit to learning from mentors in other areas.
Easy areas to find mentors include previous manager / leaders (current managers can lead to conflicts), professional associations or networking events (you’ve started networking, right?).
Creating the Mentoring Relationship
Creating a mentoring relationship is a lot like dating. It starts out as networking and learning about each other. At some point, there should be a process of creating a mentoring relationship. This could be as simple as discussing the person becoming (one of) your mentor(s).
Why is this important?Â Like any relationship, success requires some commitment and work from both parties.
Great Mentoring Relationships Take Work
Maximizing your mentoring relationship takes work. It’s a great opportunity for the mentee to develop great organizational and leadership skills. Some important points to consider include:
- Respect your mentor’s time – Like you, they’re probably very busy. Schedule meetings (coffee, dinner, other events) regularly. Pick a time that works – monthly, quarterly … and be proactive about managing that schedule.
- Be Prepared – Know what you’d like to get out of each meeting. Communicate them with your mentor in advance so they can prepare. Examples:
- Situations at work
- Skills areas
- Their experiences with X
- Bring a notebook – Be ready to take notes and really learn from your mentor. This will help you make the most of their time. Plus, it’s a great show of respect.
Potential Mentors: Understand the commitment
There is commitment required from both sides of a mentoring relationship – but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. How hard is it to have a coffee or lunch once every month or two with someone keen to learn from you? It’s your opportunity to give back to the industry that you’ve been successful in.
Understand that the person you’re mentoring might not be ready to lead the relationship. Just asking and getting started is a big step. As their mentor, help them establish what the relationship should look like and how to make it very successful and rewarding for both sides. The points above are a great starting point, but others might work well for you.
Committing to helping someone grow and develop is one of the best things you can do and amazingly rewarding.