Mentorship is a not-so-secret elixir to success, but how do you approach it? How do you even find a mentor? Then, once you do, what’s the next step? There are so many questions that come with engaging mentorship strategically to push one’s career forward. Here are some key tips to extract the most from your relationship with your mentor.

Identify your main industry of interest

You will likely have all kinds of mentors, but it’s important to find at least one in your industry of interest. If you’re in the corporate law sector but all of your mentors are artists, how can they share information with you about how to move up the ladder? Certainly, they won’t be able to share from experience. Ask around. Also, networking events are great for meeting more seasoned professionals in your industry.

Seek out more than one mentor

Now that you’ve found at least one mentor in your industry of interest, seek out peripheral mentorships. If you’ll have to do a lot of public speaking in your career, seek out a mentor who has lots of experience with that, regardless of what industry they work in.

Come with clear objectives

If your mentor is someone you’re not already familiar with, that first meeting might be awkward, especially if you’re not clear about your objectives for mentorship. Write down at least 10 things you want to get out of the mentorship and 10 things you hope to share with your mentor during your time together. Those notes will give you plenty to reference and help keep the conversation flowing.

Remember that the relationship should be reciprocal

As much as you should be learning from your mentor, your mentor should also be learning from you! Consistently ask yourself what value you can add to the mentorship through what you’re learning and experiencing on your professional journey. Don’t be afraid to share that knowledge with your mentor and ask them about their current interests.

Share micro-achievements, too!

You don’t have to limit your shared achievements to the big ones. A mentor wants to know that they are adding the kind of value to your life that you set out in your objectives at the beginning. If they’ve offered you small feedback on your soft skills and you’ve converted on that feedback successfully, share it! Talk about how much better your interpersonal relationships are because you took their advice and the positive effects it’s having on your performance at work.

Take mental notes about what you enjoy

Think ahead about what kind of mentor you eventually want to be for someone else and take mental notes about how awesome your mentor is for you. Why is your mentorship so meaningful, and what keeps you engaged? If your mentorship isn’t going as well as you’d hoped, in what regard is the onus on your mentor? What do you wish they’d have done to make things better? This will be incredibly useful as you pass it on.

Be honest about challenges

Many times in professional mentorship situations, we feel like we have to limit the challenges we share to professional ones. Your mentor is a person, too. If your boyfriend just dumped you or your grandmother just died or your best friend moved across the country, it’s okay to share personal struggles — especially because we all know that those struggles can affect our professional success. You don’t have to share every single thing, but a mentor can be a great and impartial party to talk to about personal challenges.

Remain considerate and show gratitude

Your mentor has a life. They might have a spouse, kids, certainly they have responsibilities outside of giving you advice. Be sure to always consider the value of their time by showing up on time to meetings and being prepared at all times. If they’re introducing you to important people in their network, represent them well (because you are a reflection of their mentorship at that point). Thank them often for what they bring to your life.

What value have mentors brought to your life? Sound off in the comments!


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