The mentor/mentee relationship code of conduct is still unknown to many and misunderstood by most. As a career recruiter, I have been asked countless times about how to position oneself as a mentee, what to do and what not to do when engaging in a mentor relationship….
I need a mentor; how do I get one?
After the first initial mentor meeting, I got what I needed so do I need to go back?
I didn’t really emotionally connect with my mentor; does that matter?
How do I be a great mentee?
What do I need to do to make the relationship richer and how do I do this quickly?
How often should I reach out/catch up with my mentor?
Do I ‘ask’ them to be my mentor?
“I am a mentee and mentor to a handful of amazing professionals and it’s taken me 10 years to really get into a rhythm and know what to do with both!”
The reason why there is no clear ‘code of conduct’ is because we are people! We have emotions, insecurities, egos, etc so no mentor/mentee relationship is the same and there is no precise methodology as to how to do things effectively.
That said, I’ve learnt the following personal lessons and seen/ heard many stories to share my personal mentee code:
- Mentors are busy - go to each meeting prepared and be succinct;
- Have potential solutions to your challenges ready - void asking broad open-ended questions of your mentors – they are not there to solve your challenges but help you figure out the answers yourself. If you present the challenge and back it up with your proposed 1-2 solutions, you will get more of an accurate read on their thoughts and will likely come away with an excellent 3rd solution;
- Circle back on any advice previously given - recap on the previous meeting and explain what you have actioned. This shows thoughtful consideration of their time and advice;
- Share the positives! Your mentor will get a huge amount of satisfaction if you share your business and personal successes, especially if they have ‘mentored’ you on the subject;
- Can you assist your mentor in anything they need? Mentors can become mentees too!
- Pick the right coffee shop - it’s important to use the full 30 mins of a mentoring meeting and using 5 mins ordering coffee from a counter can be an inefficient use of time. Pick a coffee shop with great acoustics and table service!
“The best way to find a mentor is to understand your skill gaps and then find an expert in that field. One of the best ways of doing this is asking your current network who they know with that particular skill set.”
As the mentee, it’s your role to drive the frequency of the meetings and the structure of the meetings. In my experience, over 70% of mentees do not return for a second meeting. This is mainly because they have either gotten the advice they need or do not know how to approach the second meeting. A few ways which mentees have approached me for a follow-up, which have worked well, include:
Want to follow up and update me on their progress
Have some further questions for me
Share some further news and checking in
Connect me with someone of interest
It’s important to remember that mentors often feel very privileged to be able to pass their experience onto another professional, so it’s unlikely they will decline a second meeting. Providing you are prepared and succinct with what you need, the relationship will be further enriched with each meeting/catch up.
The final point is to understand that mentors are like coaches or even personal trainers, you can outgrow them! Their messaging and advice can start out like little nuggets of gold but then within a year or so, a fresh perspective may be needed!
Victoria Butt is the Managing Director and Founder of Parity Consulting, recruitment experts in Product, Marketing, Communications and Digital – creating parity by investing in ALL relationships. An avid shark diver and lover of wine, professionally Victoria’s passionate about leadership, inclusion and diversity in the workplace and empowering women, in particular women looking to return to work after having children.
For a confidential discussion, Victoria can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone +61 402 418 326