Regardless of experience, becoming the best means always looking to improve and learn. It is not about competing with others for the top position. Good mentees strive to be better than who they were yesterday. Every mentorship is unique as not every mentee will develop the same way. Thus, knowing more about yourself and being open to learning new strategies can result in a more fulfilling mentorship. Here are some ways to improve your approach as a mentee:
1. Be proactive
A proactive mindset will show your enthusiasm and initiative. You do not always have to wait for your next meeting, and your mentor may not be able to teach you everything. Some proactive steps could be bringing an action plan for your mentor to advise, signing up for a conference your mentor has been to or researching a topic before you discuss it with them.
2. Initiate the mentorship
Mentors are there to help you, so you should be the one driving the relationship. Within the first meeting design a schedule, set goals and agree upon a way of communicating outside meeting times. It may feel unusual at first but your mentor should be an equal, not someone of authority. They guide you through personal experience and should not be dictating how you want to develop your career.
3. Respect the mentor’s time and effort
It can be exciting when you are a mentee to someone you admire. Remember that they have a life outside of your mentorship. While you have a million things you want to know, they do not have several hours in the day to teach them all. Come to every meeting with a plan. It will help you stay within the meeting time and organized in your learning process.
4. Take responsibility for your development
There is only so much you can do with your mentor. If one of your goals is to learn a specific skill, then start learning it on your own time. Mentors cannot hold your hand through every step of the process. They will be there when you need them. Yet, it is up to you to take the time to learn.
5. Open communication
Mentees should not shy away from their opinions in discussions. If something is still confusing, ask the mentor to try a different way of explaining. If a mentor suggests one strategy that does not reflect your learning process, be open to disagreeing. Mentors want to help you, but they will not know if their advice is effective if you are not vocal about it. Building confidence may take time. A comfortable mentor/mentee relationship will support your feelings.
6. Be open to feedback and new ideas
Growing professionally means stepping outside your comfort zone. A mentor is there to open the world of possibilities. They can show you several different paths, and it is up to you to consider them. The more willing you are to hear your mentor’s honest opinion, the more you learn.
7. Prepare for meetings
Whether you did the work or not, come to your meetings with a plan. You may not always finish the work you want to do for the next meeting. Be honest with your mentor. They can help you adjust to suit your needs better.
8. Take notes
A lot can be discussed within a half-hour or hour meeting. Take notes during your time with them to help soak up all that great information. If you have a disability, talk to your mentor about various tools you would like to use during the meeting.
9. Make time to reflect
You may be so busy learning and working hard on your development that you miss appreciating your improvement. Take time every once in a while to reflect on what you have improved on. You might find out you are living the dream your younger self wanted.
10. Express your gratitude
Just like you, mentors wonder if they are doing the best they can for you. Express your appreciation for their time, effort, network, and more. It will make them feel more fulfilled as a mentor when you tell them how they have impacted you.
11. Stay away from the “just like them” mentality
Mentors are inspiring individuals. This does not mean you should strive to follow in their exact footsteps. You are a unique person who has a story to write. You do not have to do everything your mentor did to be successful.
12. It’s not always about results
Mentors can provide a wide range of assistance for your professional development. Sometimes their network can be just as vital. Consider how mentorship is not all about the goals you achieve but also the relationships you build through it.
13. Mentor/mentee confidentiality
The stories you share with your mentor and vice versa should be confidential. It is a mutually trusting relationship.
14. Mentors are not therapists
Troubles handling work-related conversations and relying on emotional support are very different conversations. Make sure that the issues you bring to your mentor are focused on your career.