The right mentor can help change your career path for the better, guiding important decisions and sharing important career advice. If you’ve already explored the many benefits of mentorship and figured out your game plan to find a mentor, the natural next step is to figure out exactly how to navigate your new mentoring relationship. How can you gain the most from career path conversations with your mentor? Which types of questions should you ask over the course of your mentoring relationship to solicit the best career advice, important leadership lessons, and general life guidance?
Anna Robinson, CEO and Founder of Ceresa, has made a career connecting recent college grads with mentorship opportunities—and she’s got a handful of tips for getting the most out of any mentorship.
1. Keep your expectations reasonable
First things first, set expectations with your mentor! While you might want to shoot for the stars right out the gate and ask for an hourlong meeting every week, be respectful of their time. Part of the reason you sought them out as your sounding board is likely because they’re an accomplished professional, which means their time is precious. Start with a request for a 30-minute coffee chat when first getting to know one another, then see how you can evolve the relationship from there.
2. Get on their calendar
Once you have established your relationship with your mentor, ask them if they’d be willing to carve out a regular cadence for your conversations. By finding a coveted slot in their schedule, you won’t have to feel guilty or burdensome by continuously reaching out for chats. This will help for their own scheduling and planning purposes, and help establish your relationship for months to come.
Once you’ve scheduled your meeting time together, don’t be flaky! Show up on time, and be prepared for your meetings. This leads to…
3. Prepare thoughtfully
Not only should you always honor your time slot with your mentor, but you should also come prepared. Consolidate your thoughts and questions in advance, and consider sending a preview of the topics on your mind via email to your mentor ahead of your chat. If you’re struggling with a difficult boss or considering pursuing a career unrelated to your major, giving your mentor a heads-up can help them provide better advice during your meeting!
4. Practice active listening
To get the most out of your mentorship sessions, be curious! Ask follow-up questions to your mentor, and take notes to help you digest.
5. Be vulnerable with your mentor
You didn’t go through all the trouble of finding a mentor, preparing your questions, and committing your time just to tiptoe around the issues on your mind, right? Share the real emotions around your questions! Being vulnerable will help you better connect with your mentor, and will help them get to the real root of your concerns.
6. Don’t forget the basics!
Say thank you to your mentor for the work they’re doing with you. If possible, send a handwritten note—putting out the effort to show your gratitude will stand out in their mind and make them want to keep showing up for your sessions.
Armed with these six tips, you’ll have the tools to make the most of your mentorship—and set your relationship with your mentor up for success for years to come!