“A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle.” Mahatma Gandhi
Our kickoff Lean In Canada 2016 event at the end of January featured a powerful lineup of women who shared their experiences being a mentee or mentor. Each of them had unique experiences but all valued the opportunity to either guide—or be guided by—another individual.
Their stories resonated with my mentorship experience. I had the opportunity to participate in a Mentorship Exchange program a couple of years ago. It was incredible. I was able to connect with a marketing professional who was my sounding board to issues, my coach for professional development and creative director for new ideas. Throughout the year, we were able to establish a strong relationship where I was able to get a thorough understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. Our conversations were topics or issues I could not openly discuss with my colleagues or friends. My mentor provided a level of objectivity and experience that others couldn’t, and I am forever grateful.
That was my experience, but mentorship can take on different forms. Some can be completely voluntary with a colleague or senior executive; some can be part of a special workplace or school program and other times it is far more organic and stems from a chance encounter.
Whatever mentorship relationship you have, here are some key tips to ensure you get the most of your mentor:
1. Know what you want and ask for it: before talking to your mentor, figure out what you want from the relationship by developing measurable goals. Once developed, clearly communicate your goals to them. Make sure to revisit your goals throughout the process to ensure your tracking towards them.
2. Be proactive: the success of this relationship relies on you. Take responsibility and make sure you schedule regular meetings with your mentor. This will go a long way to also build rapport with them. Be consistent and be prepared for every meeting. Make sure you do your homework by reading about your mentor and learn about their company.
3. Be transparent and genuine: don’t pretend to be perfect and have all the answers. In fact, be upfront with what is making you feel uneasy and openly discuss your challenges. When you do open up, make sure you listen and take their feedback gracefully. The only way to grow is to listen and be open-minded. This whole process is about self-discovery.
4. Do the work: your mentor is dedicating precious time from their schedule to help you. Do not take them from granted. Make sure you follow-through on all the commitments you agreed to. Be proactive and provide updates, share your successes or your barriers with them. It shows them that you are taking this mentorship relationship seriously, and you appreciate their time by following their advice.
A good mentor pushes you outside of your comfort zone, can spot things you never considered, they also point out your shortcomings—in a constructive way, of course. But most importantly, a good mentor provides a soft landing, shares their experiences, provides counsel and fills gaps in your skillset. Mentorships are beneficial, and if you have been a mentee, it might just be your time to be a mentor.