Many successful people attribute their success to having had a great mentor. But did you know that you can also experience high levels of growth by being a mentor, as well? Serving as a mentor could give you the opportunity to develop your communication skills, gain a new perspective, give back and expand your network. And, who knows—your mentee might even become your mentor someday.
Here’s how you can get the most out of being both a mentee and a mentor.
Set realistic expectations.
Hollywood has done a disservice to mentees and mentors. In movies like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda seems to always be there when Luke Skywalker needs him most. That’s not how it is in real life.
A mentee and mentor must agree on the terms of their relationship. For example, can a mentee pick up the phone at any time of the day and seek advice, or is there an established time set aside for checking in? Can a mentor simply stop by the office when he or she is in the neighborhood, or will both parties agree that all meetings will be scheduled and take place at a local coffee shop?
Manage the relationship.
Both mentees and mentors have to play a role in managing their relationship. Each must take responsibility for building a rapport and moving things forward. Neither can stand on ceremony waiting for the other person to make the first move.
Be respectful of each other’s time.
It’s important to note that neither mentees nor mentors get paid for their time. Resist the temptation to blow off a scheduled meeting because a “better offer” just came along. Be succinct in your communication, and before you pick up the phone, think through exactly what you want to say. Whenever possible, avoid giving background information. If someone needs more information, they’ll ask.
Come to each meeting with a prepared agenda.
Demonstrate to your mentor or mentee that you are not just phoning it in. Come to each meeting or scheduled phone call with a few items you’d like to discuss during your time together. You can adjust the agenda as you go.
Look for ways to help your mentor or mentee outside of your formal relationship.
The mentoring experience centers around relationships. If you see an opportunity to assist your mentee or mentor outside of your formal relationship, then do so. For example, suppose your mentor has shared with you that his or her daughter is looking at the same college you attended. Volunteer to speak with her about your experience, and connect her to others you know at the university who can be of help to her.
Keep an open mind.
I’ve been both a mentee and a mentor, and here’s what I’ve enjoyed most about the experience: I’ve learned just as much from my mentees, as I’ve learned from my mentor. I’ve always kept an open mind, and if you do the same, your potential to learn and grow will be unlimited!