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How to Be a Good Mentee: Guider's Top Tips

December 9, 2019
Nicola Cronin

So you've got yourself a mentor – congratulations! Mentoring has the power to do wonders for your professional and personal development, from self-confidence to career progression, the benefits are endless. But they don't come without hard work and dedication to your goals and growth.

A common misconception about mentoring is that your mentor will tell you what to do and drive the sessions. When in fact, the best mentees take responsibility for the relationship and remember that the more they put in, the more they will get out.

From working with thousands of mentees at Guider, we've learnt a thing or two about successful mentoring relationships. So here are our top tips on how to be a good mentee...

1. Always come prepared

This is crucial as it reflects your dedication to the mentoring relationship and your personal development. Good mentees will have really considered why they want a mentor, and have an idea of what they're hoping to gain from it. This means they start the relationship on the right foot, and can keep track of their progress.

Put some time into preparing this before your first session so you're ready to discuss it articulately when you meet. Present your goals and be clear about what areas you need help with. This is also a good opportunity to bring up any expectations you have about the mentoring process and how it will work. Having this prepared will leave a great first impression, and mean you really hit the ground running.

Being prepared also applies to all future mentoring sessions. Prior to meeting, ensure you've put some time aside to prepare discussion topics or questions. This not only shows your mentor that you're dedicated to making progress, but also ensures the sessions are as productive as possible.

💡  If you want to be a really good mentee, prepare an agenda. Come up with 2-3 discussion topics or questions that you would like to cover in your mentoring session before you meet. Email this to your mentor in advance to help guide the meeting and give them an expectation of what you'd like to focus on.

2. Ask insightful questions

Good mentees are curious. While it's tempting to talk about yourself and your challenges for most of the session, remember that you can learn a lot from hearing about others' experiences. Mastering the art of asking good questions is also a great leadership quality, your mentoring sessions are a perfect time to start honing your communication skills.

Another way you can prepare for a good mentoring session is to think of some insightful questions beforehand. Here are a few examples of questions that we recommend to get you started:

  • "What is the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned, and how is it valuable?"
  • "Can you tell me about a time when you had a difficult boss? How did you handle it?
  • "How did you build the skills of speaking so engagingly in front of others?"
  • "How can I become better at managing people who do not report to me?"
  • "How did you learn to embrace failure?"

Naturally as you're chatting to your mentor, these questions may come up. But it's always handy to have a batch of questions to hand that could lead to some insightful conversations and life lessons.

3. Create an action plan (and act on it)

Be proactive! Make sure you are taking notes at every mentoring session so you can create an action plan to hit your goals. Your mentor may help with this, but you should be the one driving it.

Write yourself a list of actions before the end of every session. By running these actions by your mentor, you're inviting them to hold you accountable (which means they're more likely to get done).

A Gartner 2006 study found that:

'Participants are 40% more likely to achieve their goals if they write them down. This increases to 70% if the goals are shared with someone to keep them accountable, such as a mentor.'

This not only helps provide focus for the time in between sessions, but also ensures you don't forget what you said you'd do. With mentoring being a voluntary relationship alongside our day to day jobs, it can often be de-prioritised and lose momentum. If you've told your mentor you're going to do something, and then you turn up to the next session and haven't thought about it since the month before, you're going to make little progress and the relationship could even drop off. Keeping an action list helps you stay on track and moving in the right direction.

💡 If your mentor opens doors for you, make sure you sprint through them. By introducing you to people in their network, they are personally vouching for you and your abilities. Don't tarnish that by being reactive or slow to respond.

4. Reflect and ask for feedback

At the beginning of every session, reflect on your accomplishments so far and share any learnings with your mentor. There’s nothing more rewarding for a mentor than seeing their advice come into practice and you growing as a result of it, so make sure to keep them in the loop with your progress. It's also nice to show your appreciation by sending your mentor a thank you message, or getting a coffee if you’re meeting in person!

Another way to be a good mentee is not only being open to feedback, but actively asking for it. Asking for feedback shows a hunger to learn and improve, which is a stand out characteristic of a good mentee.

Try open ended questions on a specific topic, such as:

  • "Which parts of my approach to teamwork concern you the most?"
  • "What do you think is working and not working in my pitch?"
  • "What could I do differently that would have the greatest impact on my success?"

Remember to not take negative feedback personally. Rather, see it as a personal challenge to improve!

5. Be the driver and always follow up

Your mentoring relationship is about you achieving your goals, so don't expect your mentor to drive it. You need to take responsibility for your development and you'll get out what you put in!

Make sure to always log notes from your meetings and follow up immediately after with a summary of the session, a list of your actions and any ways they can support you. As well as this, always lead on booking in your next session with your mentor.

💡 Never end a mentoring session without booking in the next one to keep up momentum.

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⭐️  Some other tips to keep in mind to be a good mentee: ⭐️

  • A mentor is not a therapist – try to avoid conversations that veer away from your goals or objectives.
  • Common traits of successful mentees include being: enthusiastic, energetic, organised, self-aware and focused.
  • Appreciate your mentor's time! Avoid sending emails with long winding questions, and instead, frame questions in a way that makes it easy for them to provide feedback on.
  • Everything you say is entirely confidential, and your mentor knows that too! Try and be as open as possible, as trust between you and your mentor will need to be developed and nurtured.

Good luck!

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