A mentor, especially in New York City, can be a fantastic resource that can mean the difference between advancing your career to where you want to go or having it stall. The right mentor, particularly a mentor within your current company, can serve as your advocate and champion. If you are fortunate to have a mentor who is ready and willing to provide you with insight and guidance on your career, you are already well ahead of the curve. Here are a few tips to take with you going into the holidays that can maximize the benefits you can gain from future interactions with your mentor.
Establish a regular meeting schedule
The number one challenge I hear from my clients who struggle with maximizing the mentor/mentee relationships is scheduling. The more senior a mentor is, the more difficult it is to get on his or her schedule. Be proactive about planning meetings far enough in advance (aim for one month notice) and suggest a regular meeting time to keep the relationship fresh. I recommend meeting with your mentor on a quarterly basis at minimum so you can share new developments in your career. If your mentor is not willing or able to meet at least one every three months, I highly suggest finding a new mentor.
Prepare a detailed agenda for every meeting
There is a fine line between the formality of meeting a mentor and the social and more personal aspects of the mentor/mentee relationship that need balancing. If you arrive at a meeting with a mentor without a purpose or set of questions, it will be difficult for your mentor to help you. In order to give your meetings structure, I suggest preparing an agenda to help guide your discussion. If sharing an agenda seems too formal of an approach, you don’t have to share it. Keep it as a set of so you can touch on all the points you want to make and where your mentor’s advice will be most helpful.
Express gratitude through thoughtful follow-up
Anecdotally, I am hearing that expressions of gratitude are declining from mentees to mentors. If your mentor is unresponsive or uninterested in helping you further, perhaps it’s because your mentor doesn’t feel connected enough to you on a human level and your relationship does not have a deep enough meaning. Giving tokens of your appreciation through a thoughtful gift, a lunch meeting treat or flowers sent to her office can soften a relationship and encourage your mentor to think of you in a more positive light. Genuine expressions of gratitude will never hurt you but forgetting to do so certainly will. Consider how you demonstrate thanks to your mentor and determine if what you have done has been enough.
A mentor can serve as a very positive long-term influence on your career. It is critically important that you select your mentor with care and work to establish a relationship that will serve to benefit your overall career aspirations.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.