Five Things Mentees Need to Know Before Diving into a Mentoring Relationship
Camber Outdoors launched its Professional Mentoring Program to accelerate the careers of women who desire to advance in their careers, but find that they lack support at critical junctures. Since the 1980s, research has shown that mentored women have higher job satisfaction and higher intention to stay in their jobs. The demonstrable return on investment (ROI) of mentoring has led to more than 70% of Fortune 500 companies having some form of mentoring program. Moreover, mentorship programs boost the representation of Black (+18%), Hispanic (+24%), and Asian-American (+24%) women in companies more than even recruitment. Mentoring increases promotion and retention rates of historically underrepresented women by 15% to 38% compared to non-mentored underrepresented groups.
With success like that, it’s no wonder that so many professional women are looking for mentors. But, if you want the kind of professional results that can come from a successful mentoring relationship, there are a few things that you should know before you get started. Not all mentoring relationships are the same, and just having a mentor doesn’t mean success will magically happen. As a mentee, let’s take a look at how you can prepare for a good mentoring experience.
1) Be clear about your intentions
It’s important to understand why you are seeking a mentor. Your reasons may be very general (e.g., I want to be a better leader; or I want to become CEO one day), or they may be very specific (e.g., I want to ace a company-wide product presentation; or I need to find a way to get my team on board with our strategy). Establishing clear intentions will help you find a mentor who can help you reach your goals.
2) Be choosy
It’s common to make assumptions about people based on their role or resume. Obviously, it’s important to select a mentor who has professional success, but it’s equally important to select a mentor you respect and like. Most of your success and satisfaction with the mentoring experience will come from your mentor choice. Some mentoring programs, like the Camber Outdoors Professional Mentoring Program, use matching algorithms to help connect mentors and mentees based on a number of criteria. If you don’t have access to an algorithm, your best bet is to interview several prospective mentors to determine professional and personality fit.
3) Be committed
Many mentees think of a mentoring experience as “an investment in myself.” Some mentors think of themselves as an “accountability partner” whose presence will spark action. While those things are true, there’s another way to think of it. The mentor/mentee pairing is a professional relationship, and both parties are equally invested in growing and co-creating it. A shared responsibility for the relationship raises the bar for both parties and encourages each to bring quality and integrity to every interaction.
4) Be aware of your other responsibilities
It’s the mentee’s responsibility to manage the relationship. That is, the mentee’s job is to set and confirm meetings, prepare the mentor for upcoming conversations, define goals, and keep the conversations focused. That means that mentees must understand the time commitment and availability the mentor can make. Understanding that mentors have other commitments will make for much more productive meetings with your mentor.
5) Be all in
A mentoring relationship can be a safe space to explore new ways to work in increasingly complicated times. Use the opportunity to reflect on the way you do things, and how you might do them in the future. Showing enthusiasm and curiosity will enable your mentor to share their experience and observations more freely. Moreover, when you hit a roadblock – which is inevitable – your openness can help you look objectively at what happened.
Finding a Mentor
First, find out if your company has an internal mentoring program. Internal programs typically match individuals from within the same company. This can be helpful in building a network and seeing the range of professional opportunities within an organization.
Second, if your company does not have an internal mentoring program, consider external mentoring programs. These types of programs connect individuals who don’t work in the same company. Camber Outdoors’ Professional Mentoring Program matches women at the manager/director level with executive-level women in the active-outdoor industries. To date, more than 150 women have participated in the program, and more than 36% of mentees earn a promotion within one year of completing the program.
Third, ask someone you admire to be your mentor. This is the most open-ended and unstructured option. It also provides the most flexibility. Be clear about your intentions with the prospective mentor; they should know you’re asking them to be a mentor as opposed to simply a professional contact.
No one else is thinking about your career as much as you. Take control, ask your supervisor what it will take to get to the next level, and then surround yourself with people who will help you get there.
1. This is a widely cited statistic dating as far back as 2006.
2. Dobbin, F. and A. Kalev. “Why Diversity Programs Fail.” Harvard Business Review July-August 2016. Web.
3. Williams, C. L., K. Kilanski, and C. Muller. “Corporate Diversity Programs and Gender Inequality in the Oil and Gas Industry.” Work and Occupations 41.4 (2014): 440-76. Web