Last month we talked about finding a mentor. Now that you’ve hopefully met your perfect match, where do you start?
When beginning a mentoring relationship, you should take ownership of the partnership. You as the mentee should set up your first meeting, and ensure you discuss the following things:
Discuss the way in which you’d like to meet, including how and when you’d like to do it. Is monthly over the phone the best, or would you prefer to do it formally in person every two weeks? Make sure you discuss how you will handle rescheduling when necessary so you know that you’re both prioritizing the relationship.
Some sample questions:
1. How often do you want to meet, and through what channel?
2. What do we do if someone can’t make our agreed upon time?
Talk over who will do what within the relationship. You as the mentee should be setting the agenda for each session. One thing I strongly recommend is not just coming to your mentor when you have a problem you’re working through; always operating on an as-needed basis can set you up for struggle. If you two only talk when things aren’t going well, you won’t be able to proactively develop as much.
Some starter questions:
1. What type of topics are you willing to discuss?
2. Can I come to you when there’s no “issue” I’m working on?
Tell your mentor where you’re at and where you’re looking to go. Tell them what you’re looking for from them in order to get there. Misaligned expectations are one of the biggest factors I’ve seen behind nearly every professional and personal issue. If your mentor doesn’t know what you’re looking for from them, how on earth will they meet those expectations?
Here are some questions to begin:
1. What do you want out of the relationship?
2. How can you help me get where I’m trying to go?
3. Can you meet my expectations of you?
4. How can you help me develop into the person I want to be?
5. What else can I be learning in order to accomplish what I want?
Discuss at the get-go what you will do if either of you thinks that the partnership is no longer the right fit. This isn’t the most fun part of the conversation, but is arguably one of the most important. If something comes up down the road there should be no hard feelings, but if you’ve never discussed it you’ll surely feel weird beginning the “break-up” process. Talking about it from day 1 allows you both the comfort of knowing how to approach a potentially sticky situation.
Here’s how you can address it:
1. What do we do if the relationship is no longer a fit in the future?
2. How do we deal with disagreements?
When you’re talking through each of the items above, remember that this is a two-way relationship and your initial conversation is simply an investigation. Offer what is best for you, and ask your mentor the same. It’s important to ensure you’re both on board with the groundwork you lay.
My role as a professional coach has been guided by my own coaches and mentors. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, so getting it right was essential. You can do it too, and your career will thank you.