How To Make the Most of Your Mentor Relationship

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 4, 2021

Establishing a network of professionals in a new industry or field is a valuable undertaking for recent graduates or entry-level professionals. Mentors can provide beneficial guidance to industry newcomers known as mentees, which can vastly improve their careers. Often, long-term mentor relationships lead to positive life and career changes benefiting both the mentor and mentee.

In this article, we explain what mentors do, describe how to get the most out of your mentor relationship and provide tips for finding the perfect mentor.

Related: 10 Characteristics of a Mentor and Why They're Important

What does a mentor do?

A mentor is a professional who helps shape a productive future career for their mentee. The long-term relationship centers on macro-level support, development and growth. Rather than providing day-to-day solutions to workplace challenges, the mentor provides the mentee with guidance and encouragement regarding long-term goals and challenges, leaving the decision-making up to the mentee.

Mentor relationships offer many benefits, including:

  • Connection: Mentor relationships give industry newcomers a connection to an established veteran in the field.

  • Guidance: Mentees receive career guidance and insight from a person who is uniquely familiar with their career path.

  • Wisdom: Mentors provide years of industry wisdom and lessons gained from many experiences to their mentees.

  • Career advancement: Mentees improve their performance and make wise career decisions with oversight from their mentors, improving their long-term career outlook.

Mentors and mentees often establish their relationships early in the mentee's career. Mentor relationships can last years or decades with continued support, education and connection.

Related: 9 Questions To Ask Your Mentor

How to get the most out of your mentor relationship

Mentor relationships can be highly beneficial for mentees hoping to improve their career prospects. The relationship also benefits mentors looking to share their vast knowledge and develop a future leader.

As a mentee, use these steps to gain the most value from your mentor relationship:

1. Prepare to accept advice.

Enter your mentor relationship ready to receive advice. Keep an open mind and appreciate the guidance and suggestions your mentor offers regarding your work performance, choices and decisions. Constructive critiques from a mentor can positively influence your career decisions. 

2. Be honest.

Share your feelings, concerns and challenges honestly with your mentor. They want to help you develop and improve professionally, so tell them the issues you face truthfully. This way, their support and directives will be useful and practical.

3. Build an authentic connection.

Make sure you have a strong connection with your mentor. Often, mentor relationships last a long time, so ensure that you want to continue talking about your career with this person over a long period of time.

4. Do the work.

While mentors provide support, encouragement and guidance for career development, it's your responsibility to take action and advance your career. Mentors will be there to champion your efforts as you complete suggested objectives.

5. Recognize your challenges.

Take time to reflect and identify professional challenges to share with your mentor. Presenting specific issues will help them provide clear and actionable advice for you to use.

6. Research and apply the advice.

Consider how you can make a plan based on your mentor's advice. Sometimes, they may suggest resources or ideas that require you to do some research independently by reading a book or taking a course. Take the time to study their suggestions and then apply what you learned to your career.

7. Remember the relationship.

The personal relationship between the mentor and mentee is just as important as the exchange of information. Make sure you foster that relationship by providing support and encouragement back to your mentor. You might be able to offer insights to your mentor on how the field differs from when they first started, which can be useful for their professional decisions.

8. Keep it private.

While your friends, family or colleagues may know about your mentor relationship, it should remain a private way for you to develop your career as an individual.

Related: 8 Mentoring Topics for Discussion

Tips for finding a mentor

Use these tips to help you find the ideal mentor and establish a solid relationship:

Look for a leader you respect.

When searching for a mentor, look first to leaders in your company or industry whom you respect. They would be great candidates for a mentor relationship with their experience in the industry and leadership identity.

Build a relationship.

Begin building a relationship with a possible mentor to see if there's a strong, maintainable connection. It's useful to identify the connection early in the relationship before establishing mentorship.

Be straightforward.

Once you have determined a potential mentor, propose the idea of a mentor relationship to the person. Asking directly allows you to clearly define the relationship and establish long-term expectations.

Connect with several people.

When looking for a mentor, consider connecting with multiple prospects to establish the best fit for both of you. The other connections will still be valuable members of your professional network.

Determine the importance of location.

Some people prefer a mentor they can regularly meet in person. Others don't mind a long-distance mentor relationship in which most conversations happen over the phone or via video. Decide what sort of distance you're comfortable with for your mentorship.

Decide how often you want to meet.

Set regular meetings with your mentor to provide updates and get more advice. You may want to meet with your mentor every week or every other week initially, then transition to monthly conversations. Make sure you feel comfortable contacting your mentor anytime you have a question or need advice.

Define your goals.

Be clear about your goals for the mentor relationship. Work with your mentor to set SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. This way, you and your mentor will always have something to work toward together.

Consider different environments.

Look for a mentor in your company or organization, but also consider connecting with possible mentors at trade events, industry conferences or professional social media sites. You can also ask a professor to mentor you if they have experiences that complement your field.

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