Having an experienced advisor can greatly boost your professional career. Your mentor can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses more honestly, show you a clearer path to take in your career, teach you the more intricate or hidden aspects of your field and give you increased visibility in your industry. A mentoring relationship is a two-way street and you have to take an active role to maximize the benefits.
- Reach out and take the initiative. Mentors are usually senior management personnel and have bigger responsibilities and busier schedules. It wouldn't do to simply wait around for them to hand you down their wisdom. Work with your mentor to structure your learning. Map out your competencies and the areas where you need to improve. Discuss specific goals, how to achieve them, and a criteria for measuring success. Set the frequency and style of interaction with your mentor, arrange it into a schedule and put in writing. This way you'll both know what to expect from each other.
- Carry on a professional mind-set. Stick to the lesson plan and schedule. Always show up on time for meetings and consultations. Take your mentor's criticisms as a challenge to do better and accept responsibility for your work. Don't fail to express your appreciation for the help and invaluable lessons you receive. Also remember that mentors have lives of their own outside the office. So its important that you respect their time and preserve confidentiality regarding both work-related and personal matters. This doesn't mean that you have to be detached or indifferent. In fact most successful mentoring relationships end in lifelong friendships. It's good to show a genuine interest in your mentor as a human being as long as you don't forget to also maintain a healthy amount of objectivity.
- Pass on what you gain to others. If your mentor was charitable enough to impart his or her knowledge and experience to you, you should also carry on the same generous attitude towards those who may need your guidance. One clear indication that you've learned or mastered something is to be able to teach it in turn to someone else. Mentoring doesn't have to work in a manner that benefits only one person at a time. Mentoring can become a continuous cycle of support that will make an organization or business stronger.
Mentoring is a reciprocal connection. You're not there to just pick your advisor's brain and then move on. You can also have a lot to offer your mentor. Always ask how you can help and apply your skills whenever possible. This builds and helps cement the bond between you and your mentor and creates more learning opportunities for both of you.