The “be all end all” of a successful career, right? Possibly.
Or maybe not.
I recently attended a seminar at the AGSM where my Managing Director Victoria Butt, Founder of Parity Consulting, discussed all things mentorship. Except rather than placing the focus on finding the perfect mentor, she discussed the importance of being the ‘perfect’ mentee.
It was an incredibly exciting presentation, especially for me as I am finishing up university and about to embark on my own professional journey. It had never crossed my mind to think about the mentor-mentee relationship in the way she presented it, but it definitely opened my eyes to the benefits and insights a mentor can provide when the relationship is cultivated effectively.
Now why are we flipping the script from mentorship towards menteeship? One of the reasons is the math. Did you know that if 30 people approached a potential mentor, only 26 would get an initial meeting? Neither did I until Victoria shared the statistics highlighting the massive drop off in meetings after the first one. Just 12 of these mentees would receive a second meeting and a mere one person would make it to a third meeting. The statistics are quite staggering when you look at them like this.
Learning to be the best mentee will carry you in all relationships throughout life – not just the professional ones. But looking specifically at those vital professional ones, the goal is to make a mentor-mentee relationship move from transactional to sustainable. Our needs are constantly changing, so our mentors should be constantly evolving as well. Furthermore, it is common to have more than one mentor at the same time for different areas of your professional development. That’s why getting a grasp on being the best mentee possible and creating a sustainable foundation will be beneficial later in life.
So, let’s start with the root of the problem. Why do some people not even get a first meeting?
The mentor doesn’t see value or is too busy? Maybe.
Expectations and goals are not clear? Potentially.
Scheduling is not smooth sailing? Bingo.
If you expect to receive that first meeting, it is essential to begin with giving your potential mentor a robust proposition. This includes providing a clear location, time and platform on which to meet (if face-to-face is not available for whatever the reason). Once you have these three things solidified, you’ve got to do your research and come in strong with a great introduction.
Now that we all know how to lock in a fruitful first interaction, what are some of the reasons mentees do not get a second meeting? Forgetting to follow up and scheduling issues may be a small part, as is not being clear to the mentor on how they can help you. Or maybe you’ve already received all the amazing advice you needed from that first meeting.
But the big one with this second meeting is mentees not feeling worthy enough – they get stage fright and talk themselves out of asking for a second meeting. That dreaded imposter syndrome comes creeping in. In these instances, it’s important to remember that everyone – even those in senior executive roles – started somewhere. As cheesy as it may sound, do not compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. Go in there, act confident, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Looking now to the third meeting - again if expectations and goals are not clear or if a two-way rapport has not been built, it probably won’t work out. However, the main reason mentees don’t meet with their mentor a third time is due to no chemistry. It’s important to realize that not everyone is going to be your perfect match, and when there are no emotions involved it’s time to move on to the next. I mean, would you go on a third date if you’re not totally feeling it?!
In mentioning this, however, mentees are NOT there to unload their emotional needs on the mentor. It is also important not to come across as needy or solely focused on personal gains.
If you are looking for a mentor to last long-term, you need an anchor to connect back to. Take Josh for example. He scored a dinner with a dream potential mentor – let’s call him Tim. He was well prepared and had his goals in sight, but all of this went out the window when the conversation turned to politics, religion, COVID and other topics not ideal for a mentor meeting. But Josh remembered that each time Tim hired someone, he made them read five specific books. So, Josh took this as the perfect opportunity to connect back with Tim. He used this meaningful anchor and told Tim he remembered one of the books and was curious what the other four were. From there, Josh and Tim had a tie between them and a reason to keep meeting – Josh would read two of the books, check-in, meet, repeat.
By now I’m sure you’re eager to find out how to actually be the best mentee possible – and that comes down to the mentee journey. There are six simple steps to create a seamless process:
1. Identify the problem or topic you need help with.This needs to be specific, and having three mini goals to work towards your main one isn’t a bad idea.
2. Position your request clearly. Ask: “How?”, “Why?” and “When?”
3. Your approach– this can make or break the relationship.
Make sure you have an introduction that makes it easy for the mentor. More often than not these are busy professionals who are typically more than happy to help, but not if they have no clue what you’re asking for or if you haven’t suggested a clear time and location.
The reason – why them? Don’t approach someone simply because they’ve “made it”, if they have no connection to what you’re asking of them.
Know the difference between a personal, warm and cold approach. All of them make it possible to receive the guidance you’re looking for, but having a personal connection definitely makes it easier.
4. Scheduling. Like I’ve mentioned, ensure it is convenient, easy and specific. Ask for what you want, i.e. meeting face to face, but don’t close the door on other alternatives. This shows you are respectful of their time.
5. The first meeting – be prepared! Show that you’ve done your research. Some ways to do that are by mentioning a personal connection (although wait to hear their opinion on the person before giving yours!); mention why you chose them; explain why their accomplishments are important or relevant to you. Also have your agenda for the meeting ready, and keep a rapport anchor in your back pocket in case you need it.
6. Make sure to follow-up. The sweet spot is around 48 hours post-meeting. Express your gratitude, discuss your take-outs from meeting with them and any action(s) you are going to take… but only if you seriously intend to act on them. Don’t say you will do something if you’re not going to. Finally, ask what the next steps will be. Note: if you would like a second meeting, try to schedule it at the end of your first, but if this did not happen make sure to do so when you follow-up.
If you do obtain a second meeting, start by debriefing on the take-outs and actions you completed and mention how you have (or are going to) take the advice they gave you. And if you’re not feeling the spark with this mentor, reassess. Always be grateful, thank them for their time, and repeat the above steps until you meet your match.
Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be daunting. And when done correctly, embodying a confident and competent mentee can take your career to the next level.
The team of specialist consultants at Parity Consulting recruit across Product Management, Pricing, Digital, Marketing, Communications and Data Analytics. For a confidential career discussion, or if you are looking to expand your team, contact our team email@example.com 02 8068 2016 (Sydney)/ 03 9923 8081 (Melbourne).