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Fri, Apr

Making the most of a mentor

Wondering about employing a mentor and how to get the best out of them? Colin Thompson, managing partner at Cavendish academy and long time mentor, explains how to do just that.

1. Spend time together

While this may seem painfully obvious, you aren’t going to get much out of your mentor if you do not see her/him. Make sure you have meetings on the calendar - at minimum an hour a month - and commit to them. If you and your mentor have a hard time coordinating schedules, make sure you plan three meetings ahead.

When you do meet, ensure you are in the right mindset to have a proper discussion. You need an open mind and be prepared to take new ideas on board. You also need to have thought about points for consideration and be willing to agree necessary changes and a timeframe for them to be implemented.

2. Articulate your goals

Mentors can only help you if your goals and strategies are known to them. Spend time establishing longer term career goals then establish with your mentor what your near term objectives are for getting there. When you’re at the point where you have established mentoring objectives, pull them out regularly and keep checking how you are progressing.

3. Be meeting ready

Do not expect your mentor to do all of the work. When it comes to mentor meetings be prepared or you’ll waste time - and money! Make sure you have an agenda. Review your notes from the last meeting. Bring new items to discuss (performance reviews, e-mail from colleague, interesting article you’ve read, etc.). Plus, address any agreed items as previously discussed with you mentor.

4. Provide feedback

Your mentor will be much more effective if he/she knows whether his/her mentoring is proving effective for you. If your mentor doesn’t listen enough or tells boring stories that go nowhere, speak up. Do not waste your time - or your mentor’s - if things aren’t going how you would like. Similarly, if things are going well, let your mentor know what is working so you can build upon that.

5. Be seen in action

The better a mentor knows you, the better she/ he can work with you. Find opportunities for your mentor to see you give a presentation, lead a meeting, or participate in a team meeting. This will give your mentor better insight into who you are, as well as providing an opportunity for feedback. The closer you both become develops the best results and full benefits.

6. Observe your mentor

Some people are better showing you how to do something than explaining it. You can learn a lot by watching your mentor in important situations as well as everyday happenings. Sitting in on a meeting they are holding for instance might shed light on a part of the organisation with which you were unfamiliar

7. Turn the tables

While much of the focus will be on you, your mentor should have career goals too. Ask about them. You can learn a lot about your mentor by discussing her/his goals. In addition, your mentor’s goals may give you new ideas for your own career path. Listening and learning new ideas are good for both.

8. Build your network

The most successful people usually have more than one person to whom they turn for advice. Ask your mentor about people in his/her circle that you might meet. While you may not find others right away who would be good mentors for you, you will be laying the groundwork for possible future relationships while building your own social capital. Experienced and skilled successful people who are willing to help you become more successful can bring great benefits to you and your business.

9. Get advice

Mentors can offer valuable insight into what it takes to get ahead. They can be your guide and sounding board for ideas, helping you decide on the best course of action in difficult situations. You may learn shortcuts that help you work more effectively and avoid you reinventing the wheel.

10. How can I help you?

This is a killer question that catches most mentors off guard. Most mentees are only concerned about what they can take from a mentor. When you communicate that you are genuinely willing to give, you will set yourself miles apart from everyone else. Who doesn’t like a win/win relationship?

Having a person who is willing to be your mentor is a tremendous resource. Make sure you are not using your mentor to duplicate advice you already get from others - always focusing on current issues. Use your mentor’s experience and wisdom for those big picture questions and goals that you have. And give it enough time for it to work.

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