12 Tips for Getting the most From a Mentor

1/10/2016 8:58:18 PM

Did you know that January is National Mentoring Month? I was fortunate to be mentored by two pioneers in the investment consulting industry. Despite their many responsibilities and heavy workloads, they always took time to mentor me. I took advantage of every learning opportunity with them. I believe this was key to my career success, and I’m forever grateful to them.
Interestingly, many of my peers didn’t pursue these same mentoring opportunities. I never understood why because mentoring is the best way to accelerate learning, particularly on a career track. By consulting with veterans in your field (or even just with those who are ahead of you on the road of life), you’ll make a better career decision, learn the job more quickly, and discover the secrets to getting promoted. With the right mentor, you’ll also gain practical wisdom about life and key decisions you’ll be making. They’ll teach you from their own personal experience what worked and what didn’t. For many mentors, the opportunity to mentor gives new meaning to their past adversity and challenges.
Here are 12 tips for finding—and getting the most—from a mentor:
  1. Identify the areas in your life or career you’d like to improve in the most.
  2. Look for people who are doing what you want to be doing, and doing it well. Without being obnoxious, look for ways to observe them in action and get to know them, if they are open to it.
  3. Ask them to honestly share their assessment of your strengths and areas for improvement. Have a mindset of being open to receiving constructive feedback.
  4. Ask them for suggestions on ways to build on your strengths and correct your weaknesses.
  5. Ask them to identify the most important life lessons they’ve learned.
  6. Find out what qualities they admire most in other people.
  7. Discuss your career plan with them and seek their advice on how to position yourself for the next step.
  8. Seek to learn, not promote yourself. Don’t be a user.
  9. Be prepared. If a mentor consents to meet with you or allow you to shadow him or her, read up on the subject matter ahead of time. Find out what your mentor reads (books, authors, papers, websites, blogs, etc.) and read them, too.
  10.  Follow up on (i.e., apply) your mentor’s suggestions and directions.
  11.   Show appreciation and recognition for your mentor’s influence in your life.
  12.  Be a value-added “mentee.” Return favors and time/energy investment in appropriate ways. What can YOU do for him or her?
Don’t hesitate to take full advantage of the wisdom that surrounds you. Mentors can be a benefit in many areas of life! Many times, a mentor can provide a fresh perspective — a new way of looking at a problem or issue. Look for a relationship in which the mentor is more a coach than an advisor — one in which he or she facilitates your decision-making process by suggesting alternatives, rather than telling you what to do. Ideally, your mentor will motivate you to do your best work—and be your best you!
LifeSmart Publishing has valuable resources for mentors, including our What I Wish I Knew at 18 book and student guide.  Be sure to check out the curriculum and resource section of our website.

Image credit: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net