Jane McNeill, director of Hays Australia, gives her advice on the steps you should take to make the most of having a mentor at work.
A good mentor can change your career for the better. They’ll share their knowledge and expertise, open doors, guide your upskilling, offer career advice and help you get ahead professionally. Their advice is invaluable and is given voluntarily, without expecting anything in return.
But, despite this, it’s common for people to think that it’s the mentor who shoulders the responsibility of ensuring the relationship works.
In reality, a mentee has the more pivotal role to play. Why? Because they must make themselves ‘mentorable’. In other words, they must be willing to be open, honest, considerate and accepting, while taking ownership for arranging meetings, preparing appropriately and acting on advice.
Yet according to a recent survey of ours, only 35pc of more than 1,200 people we spoke to were confident that they know what’s expected of them when being mentored.
Considering all that they’ll gain from a successful mentorship, a mentee really does have a greater obligation than the mentor to make the relationship work.
So, how can you be an effective mentee? Here’s our advice.
1. Respect your mentor’s time
Your mentor is voluntarily giving up their time to pass on their skills and knowledge to help your career develop, so be flexible and accommodate their schedule when sending each meeting invite. Arrive a few minutes early to each appointment and always be thankful for their time. Understand that sometimes schedules change at the last minute – and if you are the one who needs to reschedule, try to give plenty of notice.
2. Communicate your purpose
You need to be clear about what you want to achieve from a mentorship to avoid wasting each other’s time. Your mentor is not a mind reader, so set and discuss your specific objectives and then arrive at each meeting with questions or an agenda aligned to your overall goal. It may help to make a note of questions that come to mind throughout your working week that you could ask in your next meeting.
3. Be prepared
Before every meeting with your mentor, prepare or collate relevant examples of your work. For example, if you’re asking your mentor for advice on report writing, bring along a draft report you are working on. This allows your mentor to provide relevant and practical advice.
4. Use new skills
A mentor will provide you with useful knowledge, guidance and advice, which will only be beneficial if you use it. Don’t waste your mentor’s time – and your own – by failing to put into practice the new skills they’ve shared with you.
5. Provide feedback
Mentors want to know that their time and effort is having a positive impact on you. After all, they’ve invested time in you that they could have spent elsewhere. Always share with your mentor the successes you’ve had following their guidance.
6. Seek out multiple mentors
Finally, you can have more than one mentor simultaneously. After all, no one person is proficient in every skill or competency you want to master, so do not expect a mentor to provide guidance on topics outside their scope of expertise. Instead, have multiple mentors to cover all the areas you want to develop.
By Jane McNeill
Jane McNeill is director of Hays Australia. A version of this article originally appeared on the Hays’ Viewpoint blog.