How to get the most out of your career mentor

January 30, 2020

So, you’re poised to attack your professional goals with a career mentor. You discovered why you need a mentor and have found an awesome one who exhibits all of the qualities of a good mentor. What now?

Here are six tips for getting the most out of your new mentoring relationship.

1. Be a good mentee.

In order to get the most out of your mentor, you must first be a good mentee. After all, this is a relationship that requires active participation by both parties. To be a good mentee:

  • Ask great questions and be a particularly good listener.
  • Take notes and file them for future reference.
  • Practice what you learn and report back.
  • Respect your mentor’s time; don’t cancel meetings without providing an explanation for the cancellation, and don’t develop a habit of constantly calling. Thank your mentor! Don’t take anything for granted.

2. Establish goals and expectations.

Your mentor can’t live up to your expectations if you don’t clearly lay them out on the table. Explain why you want a mentor and what goals you would like help accomplishing. Write your objectives down and share them with your mentor. Review your goals together from time to time (quarterly, bi-monthly, yearly) to make sure you’re both getting what you expected out of the relationship.

3. Agree upon frequency and method of communication.

Figure out what works best for the both of you. Will you meet regularly? When, where, and how often? Is your mentor open to communication outside of scheduled meetings? Ask your mentor how long it might take them to respond to your email or phone inquiries. The Capella Connect Career Mentoring program provides students and alumni a Partnership Agreement to help determine the appropriate channels and frequency of communication with your mentor. You can also search for mentorship partnership agreements online.

4. LEARN from your mentor!

This may seem self-explanatory, but don’t forget the point of this relationship. Practice the skills you learn, store away nuggets of wisdom, and take good advice when you need direction. It’s also important to take constructive criticism. Receiving corrective feedback from your mentor is the perfect opportunity to listen, digest, and apply what you have learned. Don’t be defensive, but instead understand this is the role of your mentor.

5. But…don’t be a passive sponge.

While you should remain open to your mentor’s ideas, don’t be afraid to push back. If you’re not sold on some advice or a recommendation, ask challenging questions to spark a discussion. After all, a healthy debate with your mentor is good practice for the workplace! Just make sure you are respectful and can defend your ideas.

6. Mix it up!

Even though it’s a good idea to have regularly scheduled meetings, you should vary what you do together occasionally. Instead of always going to the same old boring meeting room in your office, consider heading to a local coffee shop, going for a walk, or even meeting after work for happy hour. You could also see if it’s possible to shadow your mentor for a day or attend a conference together. If your mentor is a fellow Capella student or alum and you need to connect remotely, try switching between phone and video conferencing to see which option you prefer best.

If you take the time to implement these suggestions, both you and your mentor will benefit from a fulfilling and engaging mentoring relationship that will (hopefully) last for years to come. Eventually, you’ll have landed your career goals and will be ready to mentor someone yourself.

This is the fourth and final post in a series on mentorship in celebration of National Mentoring Month. The Career Center’s mission is to empower students and alumni to proactively manage their careers and make meaningful, and effective, career decisions.

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