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Get out what you put in. Making the most of having a mentor

We have looked previously at the approach would-be mentors should take to establish an effective mentoring relationship that is productive and useful for both parties. Here, we consider what responsibilities and objectives a mentee should set to take as much as possible from having a mentor.


To begin with, it is important to be clear from the start on what it is you want from the mentor-mentee relationship. This involves understanding what a mentor isn’t: your mentor shouldn’t be simply your access to a particular company or market; they shouldn’t be viewed as your in-company work counsellor; they aren’t supposed to be your friend.


Instead, you should choose a mentor that, through their skills, experience and position in life, meets the needs of what it is you would like from a mentor. If you are looking for direction in a particular career, then it naturally makes sense to seek a mentor who is in a similar career and has experience climbing a specific corporate ladder. This doesn’t mean you intend to emulate their career exactly, of course, but should mean their advice is relevant to the future work scenarios you are likely to face.


Alternatively, if you are seeking a mentor who can provide you with broader career support and suggestions, it perhaps makes more sense to identify someone from a different profession and maybe a different organisation. This could grant you access to a broader perspective on your career, as well as granting you the benefit of their experience moving through a very different career ladder. You can also gain a more neutral perception of the organisation you are currently at, helping put issues and concerns into a wider context.


Once a mentor has been found, you need to make sure you make best use of their (and your) time. Understand that they are obviously busy people, and try not to be overly demanding on their time. Plan concentrated sessions, and come prepared with questions and a readiness to learn from their experience.


Also be sure that you are suitably grateful for the great opportunity you are receiving. This doesn’t mean gushing praise and gratitude at every turn, but you must be evidently appreciative of the time and experience they are sharing with you.

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