I see a lot of young people approaching mentoring the wrong way. They ask a leader they admire to mentor them, forcing the person into an awkward position in which she feels bad for saying “no” or obligated to say “yes.” But this is not how mentoring works.
I think Simon Sinek covered this topic best:
The same way you wouldn’t cold email a stranger to ask them to be your friend, you should never ask a stranger to be your mentor. Mentorships are a relationship, like a friendship. They gradually build over time. Both people have to invest in building the relationship. And both people have to benefit from it.
Mentorship is a two way street:
“Mentor relationships aren’t mentor-mentee, it’s not just teacher-student, but rather it’s mentor-mentor.”
Mentors can help when you don’t look like someone who is supposed to be there.
In today’s episode we cover a few concepts:
Mentees: Your mentor’s time and insights are valuable – treat it that way
Be smart about using your time with your mentor – remember, she is not a therapist. Come to her with thoughtful questions and be ready to discuss real challenges you’re facing, that you have no clear answers to. Then listen carefully to her recommendations and report back on your progress. She’s more likely to continue to invest in you if you’re acting on her input—and she sees the impact she’s having on your career and trajectory.
Mentees: Stick to the process – build trust with your mentor
Great mentors can develop into sponsors who use their social and relationship capital to help you thrive. Before your mentor will sponsor you, she needs to trust that you are reliable and a bet worth making. To build trust, always follow through on what you say you’re going to do, and be consistent. Don’t check out when you feel challenged – you want to get to a point where your mentor will feel comfortable enough to call you out. And what you do next is crucial to your growth.
Remember: this is what you signed up for. Don’t wimp out when it gets tough; this is where the really good stuff happens.
Mentees: Manage up, own the relationship
Remember, more often than not, mentees should drive the relationship. Learn how to manage up. Persevere. Ask for more of your mentor without demanding it.
This doesn’t bother him (at least, it shouldn’t). It honors him. It shouldn’t be a big deal to ask this person for coffee or lunch, outside of your normal meeting time.
If a mentor can’t be a friend, then he’s probably not a mentor. Make an effort to find ways to solidify the relationship over time.