How to prepare for mentoring: a mentee’s guide

Preparing to meet a new mentor? High impact mentoring can make a positive difference to career development, so if you want to unlock your full potential, meeting regularly with a mentor is a great idea.

So, firstly – what exactly is a mentor?

A mentor is defined by Google as “an experienced and trusted advisor” – a successful mentor is someone who is able to support, encourage and develop someone else. Mentoring relationships usually involve an experienced individual mentoring someone with less experience around a specific area of expertise. This doesn’t always need to reflect seniority; a recent graduate could be a mentor to a company founder if the topic for their discussions was how to connect & engage with students in their graduation class.

Whether it’s your first time being mentored, or you’re just looking for a bit of inspiration to make a great first impression, here’s a quick guide to help you get started.

How should I prepare for my first mentoring session?

Think about your elevator pitch. Your mentor will want to get to know a little about you. Take time to consider their possible questions. Who are you? Why are you here? How did you get to this point? What would you like to achieve? A brief summary will help contextualise your situation – keep your responses short and high level. Your mentor can then ask more questions and steer you in the right direction.

Consider your current challenges. What do you want from mentoring? Mentoring can be an enlightening experience so don’t waste a minute. Come prepared with your goals, no matter how vague. Think about the direction that you’re heading in and any road blocks you see ahead of you. Your mentor will help you map out an achievable path and carve out milestones on the way to your goals.

Do your research. Whether you’ve been partnered through a mutual connection, made a direct approach or introduced through a mentoring pair-up service, always do your research and find out about your mentor before you meet. Information about their employment history & career trajectory is often readily available through LinkedIn or company websites. Think about how your mentor’s experiences could be transferable to your current challenges. Having a clear idea of how you’d like to utilise their time will be invaluable – they’ll appreciate it too!

What can I expect from a mentoring arrangement?

Honesty. Be prepared for 100% honesty and you’ll get 100% back from your mentoring sessions. Be brave and take this opportunity to explore your weaknesses. Remember, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Make sure you’re honest from session one and don’t leave it until the final session to reveal what you really want to achieve. Take any criticism with grace. Your mentor is on your side and sometimes ‘tough love’ is the route to success.

Confidentiality. Mentoring should provide a safe space for you to discuss your thoughts and opinions without fear of judgment or worry of retribution. This is a new relationship so treat it with respect and you’ll be rewarded with a great partnership.

Stretch. Step outside of your comfort zone. Most pairings are external to your usual network or organisation so leverage this by gaining a fresh perspective; out-of-the-box thinking can be helpful and welcomed. Keep an open mind, be curious and use the sessions to approach any problems or road blocks in a new way.

Structure. We always recommend that you agree on timings, contact arrangements and number of sessions at the start of the relationship.  Setting the ground rules for this new relationship will enable both mentor and mentee to get the best out of the time allocated. And – this should go without saying – always be punctual, as everyone’s time is valuable and respect is key.

Strong mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial

As a two-way street, the benefits of mentoring are realised through reciprocity. Take time to consider your mentorability – what would you like to achieve & what can you give back – it will bolster your ability to benefit from your new mentoring relationship.

Interesting in mentoring others? Looking for a new mentor? Register your details to join the Hertalis Mentoring Network.

This post was last updated in December 2019.

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