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Tips for a Mentee- Personal Qualities that Make a Good Mentee

Updated on April 30, 2012

You want to join a mentoring program but don't know what is expected

Many articles have been written on "How to be a Good Mentor", but not as much has been said regarding how to be a good mentee. Having mentored hundreds of people over 20+ years in a large corporate environment, I've definitely seen those who were prepared and fulfilled from the relationship, and many more who hadn't thought through what their intentions and expectations were. Those with goals and a plan definitely got more benefit from the mentorship. Here are a few things I've learned over the years that might be helpful as you look to improve your skills via a mentor.

  1. Decide what you want to learn. There may be several things you want to improve upon relative to your career - time management, successful presentations, managing people, etc. Before you ask someone to be your mentor, first decide what skills you want to master. If you're having a hard time deciding, think about feedback your supervisor may have given you regarding areas to improve upon. Or what about those things that are difficult or uncomfortable for you? Maybe you simply want to understand how the culture of the company works.
  2. Choose a mentor. After you've pinpointed the skills you want help with, create a list of a handful of people who could help with each skillset. If, for example, you have 3 skills to master, you may very well want or need 3 different people who are skilled in those topics to be mentors to you. Then simply approach the person with your request. Sometimes there is a misconception that a mentor will choose you, but that happens fairly infrequently. You will most likely have to reach out to them, but don't be afraid to do so. Most people take a request to be a mentor as a compliment and are pleased to be asked. An email request works just fine, as does a handwritten note. Try not to put the person on the spot with an in person request needing an immediate response. Give them the chance to think it over and give you an answer. Don't be discouraged if the answer is No - or if the next several answers are No. It's most likely an issue of not enough time in the day and nothing personal towards you.
  3. Create a list of questions. Prior to your first meeting with your mentor, prepare a list of questions you can ask to help guide the conversation and put most of the burden of the work on your shoulders. For example, if you want to learn to manage your time better, you might ask "How do you balance multiple priorities and decide where to best put your time and effort?" or "How do you handle interruptions or distractions and get back on track?"
  4. Listen well and take notes. If someone is willing to share their valuable time and life lessons with you, be courteous and respectful. Show up on time (i.e. 5 minutes early) - listen well (without interrupting) - take notes of key points. Most importantly, say Thank You.
  5. Create an action plan. After each session, create a plan incorporating 1-3 of the nuggets you gained from the meeting. Not everything that is shared with you will fit your personal style or be something you want to incorporate. That's fine - it's your career - you get to choose which advice fits your particular needs. Share your plan with your mentor, either via email shortly after the session, or begin the next session with your plan, and more importantly, any actions you've taken based on your learnings. Many good mentors will give you assignments to help you learn. But don't assume this will happen. Take the initiative to create your own action items.

Mentorship is all about gaining skills and lessons to help you further your career. Take charge of the process. While you're learning from your mentor, she is also learning about you. You want to be perceived as someone who takes charge and takes action. Most leaders want to help others grow. Respect your mentor and the time invested in you by taking action on what you learn. It will make you both proud!!

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