Five Things Mentees Need to Know Before Diving into a Mentoring Relationship
Not all mentoring relationships are created equal. Here’s how to make the most of yours.
Camber Outdoors launched its Ann Krcik 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 percent of Fortune 500 companies having some form of a mentoring program. Moreover, mentorship programs boost the representation of Black (+18 percent), Hispanic (+24 percent), and Asian-American (+24 percent) women in companies more than recruitment does. Mentoring increases promotion and retention rates of historically underrepresented women by 15 to 38 percent 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 (“I want to be a better leader,” or “I want to become CEO one day”), or they may be very specific (“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
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 choice of mentor. Some mentoring programs, like our own, 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 both professional and personality fit.
3) Be committed
Many mentees think of their 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 a better way to think about it: The mentor/mentee pairing is a professional relationship, and both parties are equally invested in growing and co-creating it. 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, it’s 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 experiences 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
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.
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’ Ann Krcik Professional Mentoring Program matches women at the manager/director level with executive-level women in the active-outdoor industries. Although we’ve seen amazing results with our program, we get almost three times more mentee applications than we have available mentors and for obvious reasons, can’t include everyone. Don’t let this discourage you from finding other similar programs or seeking out a mentor on your own.
Asking someone you admire to be your mentor has no downside. This is the most open-ended and unstructured option. It also provides the most flexibility. Be clear about your intentions with the prospective mentor and make sure they should know you’re asking them to be a mentor, versus a professional contact. Layout why you think the relationship would be beneficial to you both, your specific goals, and how you envision it playing out logistically.
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.