6 steps to be a great mentee

Posted on June 23, 2023
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By Beth Pittman, Skills Lab Co-Founder, and Career Coach

We (my Skills Lab founder and I) are finishing a year-long mentorship program designed for women-owned entrepreneurs.  We were already advocates of mentor relationships, and this program reinforced the value of being both a mentor and a mentee.  The program has been a great experience.   I’m a true believer in the ‘you get out what you put in’ mentality.  Was it easy?  No.  Was it always convenient?  No.  Did I learn things?  Yes.
If you are considering a mentor/mentee relationship – do it!  Relationships don’t have to be as formal as the program we went through.  Here are some things we learned as mentees:

Diversity matters.

In the program we were in, we had the opportunity to “speed date” all mentors available.  We interviewed everyone in a short amount of time to determine if we’d be a fit for each other.  Some mentors are in a similar industry as our business, and that seems like a natural fit.  However, we were seeking a mentor that could bring us different perspectives and experiences.   Our mentor is in an industry that we knew nothing about, however, she is well-connected throughout the community, and is knowledgeable in many business areas.

Set a schedule.

We had a goal to meet every month – either in-person or via zoom.  We set a recurring monthly meeting and very rarely adjusted the date, but never canceled completely.  Being committed to the meetings was so valuable and meaningful to both parties.  I remember doing a zoom call with our mentor in the parking lot after another meeting because I did not want to miss the mentor meeting.

Have an agenda.

In our case, the mentees set the agenda.  We let our mentor know ahead of time what we wanted to discuss so that she could prepare.  Many times during the call, we would have more ideas and questions.  We either addressed them then or put them on the agenda for next time.  If your mentor is taking time to work with you one-on-one each month, be respectful of their time and create an agenda.

Follow up.

Sometimes, the mentor recommended we talk to someone or network with a certain group – we made sure we did that. She often made the connection for us via email or in person.   You have to follow up on that connection, if not, you risk losing the respect of your mentor and losing great connections.  What does that say when they have taken time to introduce you or refer you, then you don’t do anything with it?  You never know what ‘following up’ will do for you or your business.

Evaluate what you’ve learned.

Evaluate the pros and cons of your mentor relationships.  If you are not seeing a lot of pros, then have a discussion with your mentor/mentee. Not all mentorships are beneficial. Recognize if the relationship is not a good fit or if the timing is just off.  Evaluate what you are learning or missing and look for something complimentary in your next mentorship.

Ask the hard questions.

These are the questions that keep you up at night and make you think “I wish someone could just tell me what to do.”  When these questions pop up, make sure to pose them to your mentor.  Are your prices right?  Do you need a connection in a certain industry? Do you have the wrong people on your team? These are all great questions for a mentor!  Your mentor may not have all the answers, but talking these topics through with a neutral person can be so helpful.  And they likely can refer you to one of their connections who can help.

No matter what stage of life you are in, you have the skills to mentor someone more junior and to be mentored by someone more senior.   The experience on both sides is invaluable.