This article originally appeared on Business Insider – November 1, 2011 – by Heather R. Huhman
Everyone should have a mentor for his or her career.
Whether it’s someone who works in the same field as you do, or someone who is on a complete different career path, a mentor can provide much-needed advice and guidance during good times and bad.
One of the things people are looking for in a mentor is someone who can bring a broader perspective – which can be hard to do if they are exactly like you,” said Deb Busser, partner at Essex Partners.
Here are some rules Busser suggests following when choosing a good mentor:
Take the driver’s seat.
Mentees are often looking for the ‘older, wiser, more experienced’ mentors to drive the relationship when really it is the mentee who needs to be the driver.
The mentee needs to define and set expectations on what a successful relationship would look like for them. (The mentor can’t read their mind and has been asked to play different roles for different people).
Potential mentees shouldn’t ask someone to be their mentor until they have become very clear on what they asking for.
- What are your goals?
- How do you think the mentor can help?
- Do you need a sounding board? Someone who knows your industry?
- How often and where do you envision meeting?
Mentees need to take responsibility at the beginning of the relationship and before each meeting to be clear about what they need, and what is or isn’t working.
Don’t exploit their Rolodex – build a relationship.
Don’t use a mentor just for their connections. You are creating a relationship that is about leveraging your mentor’s experience and insights, not about exploiting their Rolodex.
Over time, if you have developed trust and respect, your mentor will volunteer and happily make introduction to those connections that they think will be helpful to you.
Remember it’s a two-way street.
Do be thoughtful – by design, mentoring relationships can feel one-sided with one party (the mentor) doing more of the giving and the other (the mentee) doing more of the taking.
As a mentee, be considerate of your mentor’s time. Meet at a location that is convenient for them. Don’t expect them to pick up the bill – split or offer to pay the tab.
Send them a note or a card between sessions updating them on your progress or letting them know how you were able to take action on one of their suggestions. Bottom line: Make sure they get something out of it, too.
Do you have a mentor? How did you go about finding the right person? What benefits do you both receive from the relationship?