Last year one of our CentriKid Camp interns, Mary, asked me about my mentor and how I got started meeting with him. She was looking to find a mentor and trying to figure out how to get started. I was honored but I had no idea if I did it “right” or not…and I’m sure it looks different in every situation.
Here is what I shared with Mary as my 2-cents-worth about approaching a mentor and asking for their time:
- Ask them if they have done this before and if they have advice on how to get it started. Ask for advice from “whatever their position in the company or stage in life” to “whatever your position or stage is”.
- Identify a time period if you are are doing a multiple session type of thing…6 months, a year…every two weeks, once a month. Be clear so you don’t ask a very busy person to commit an undetermined amount of time to you.
- Start with briefly explaining the reason why you wanna talk to them whether it’s a one-time chat or an on-going thing. Let them know what you have observed or been told and they will probably be very appreciative of the affirmation.
- Listen more than you talk. There may be times you need to vent, and a mentor can be a good outlet for that…oftentimes healthier and more productive than venting to a co-worker. But the more you listen, the more you will learn.
- Have questions ready…sometimes I’ve gone into it with a topic rather than a question, but the questions emerged as we got into discussing the topic.
- Make it personal. There are probably very valid arguments against this…but I think the advice means more, the learning is more effective, and the experience is more fun if you get to know each other on a more personal level.
- Be ready to take notes. I always have some way of jotting down notes…but not every chat warrants it. Just don’t get caught with no way to record essential details….but remember you aren’t a court reporter so don’t write every word down. The best learning for me has taken place when I jot down highlights after a chat is over.
- Do something with what you learned. If you only store the knowledge in a notebook or hold it in your head, then what’s the point.
- Make it what you need it to be and what you want it to be. A mentor is a privilege and an opportunity. Not an assignment. If it isn’t fun or beneficial, then steer it in a different direction or end it…don’t let it become a beating.
- Pass it on. Look for opportunities to share what you’ve learned with another person who comes along behind you in the organization or in life. The best lessons are worth passing down to the next generation.