12 Tips for Getting the Most from a Mentor

5/19/2012 9:51:14 AM

I was fortunate to be mentored by two pioneers in the investment consulting industry, Madelyn Smith and Duncan Smith. They were simply amazing, not only as investment pros, but more so as people. I was in awe of them because of their incredible wisdom about work and life. 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, my peers didn’t pursue these same mentoring opportunities like I did. I never understood why because mentoring is the best way to accelerate one’s learning. I suspect they thought they’d be an imposition. However, for most leaders who care about the next generation, nothing could be further from the truth.
By consulting with veterans, 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 the key decisions you’ll be making. They’ll teach you from their own personal experience what worked and what didn’t. For many mentors, it gives their past adversity and challenges new meaning by helping others in similar situations.
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 well what you want to be doing. 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 “ment-ee.” 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. It’s a free gift just for the asking!
We invite you to peruse the other articles and blog posts here on our website. You’ll find a variety of topics to starting gleaning for nuggets of life wisdom—things you wish you’d known when you were 18! Share them with a young adult in your life.