1 KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
One of the most frustrating things mentors say they experience when sitting down with a potential mentee is asking “How can I help you?” and getting the reply, “I don’t know, what do you think?” A mentor’s role is not to write your future for you — it’s to share in your vision for the future and to help provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to get there. While this doesn’t mean you need to have a life plan for the next 50 years, communicating with your mentor regarding how you’d like to grow and advance over at least the next five years will help them identify how they can best help you get there. Mentors know a lot, but not all of it will be relevant to your goals. Help them narrow the focus area so they can provide you with the information and support that’s most relevant to you and your goals.
2 BE AUTHENTIC AND BRING YOUR “A-GAME”
Mentors are more likely to believe in you, trust you, and sponsor you if you are authentic and always performing at your absolute best. When mentors give passive support such as advice, they’re not really putting anything of their own on the line. They give you advice, and then you both go on your merry ways. When they give you active support, they’re also putting their own reputation at stake because they’re the ones who brought you in. How you behave and how you perform in that situation reflects not only on you, but also on your mentor. Therefore, when you start asking mentors for active support, they need to be able to trust that you will perform in a way that reflects well on both of you. They simply aren’t going to take the risk if they don’t believe you can deliver.
3 ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED
You should know what you need when you go to talk to your mentor. Is it just insights? Is it an introduction to a specific person or company? Ask your mentor for specific, focused support, because even if you know what you want, unless your mentor is a mind-reader (in which case, can you introduce us? I have a few business propositions for them…) you have to request the type of support you’re seeking. While being so direct can be a very scary prospect for some mentees, mentors would much rather have you ask politely for what you need than leave them guessing about how they can best help you. If nothing else, remember that moving from passive to active support requires the mentee to play an active role, engaging with the mentor in a focused and intentional way. By implementing these tips, you can begin to shift your approach and create the relationships you need in order to build the career you want.
Melis Tusiray is the founder and president of Hey Ladies! (heyladies.org), a platform that provides practical, applicable advice and strategies to women who work.