Learning how to mentor in the workplace is an important skill to learn. A mentorship relationship is indeed a two-way street. The mentor has to be willing to help, advise, and coach the mentee, and the mentee has to be willing to put in the effort in order to get the most out of the relationship. Of course, it is the, for the most part, the mentee’s responsibility to get the ball rolling in the right direction. After all, mentees are the ones who require the mentor’s help to propel and accelerate their professional development.
So what do mentees need to know about being a mentee? The following points will highlight what it means to be in the mentee’s shoes and what etiquette they need to mentor in the workplace.
How to Mentor in the Workplace
LET GO OF YOUR EGO
As a mentee, you are the one asking for guidance and assistance. Proper mentor-mentee relationship etiquette is to let your mentor take the lead. Consider this relationship as being dance partners – one person leads, and the other follows. Remember, your mentor’s experiences count for a lot; they are credible and they hold an incredible amount of information power. Trust in your mentor’s abilities to guide you in the right direction. They have walked miles in your shoes, so let them show you the way.
ACTIVE LISTENING GOES A LONG WAY
How do you let your mentor take the lead? Through active listening. But what is the difference between listening and active listening, and why is active listening important? It’s crucial to go further than just hearing what your mentor is saying. Practicing active listening in your mentor-mentee relationship shows that you are absorbing what your mentor is saying, paying attention to their advice, and comprehending their messages clearly.
If your mentor is a successful professional, chances are they are extremely busy outside their mentorship relationship with you. Active listening not only shows your enthusiasm for the opportunity to work alongside your mentor, but it also shows that you are able to take direction well, even amidst all the busyness.
Your time with your mentor is precious and valuable. Not everyone is fortunate enough to find someone with who they are so eager to work alongside and actually be given the opportunity to do so. Showing preparedness by clarifying from the very beginning of the relationship what you are expecting from there, what your goals are, and what you are willing to do in order to achieve those goals shows not only your respect for your mentor, it also shows the respect you have for yourself. Coming prepared with goals and expectations for your mentorship relationship will help in building an effective and efficient connection.
DON’T GET DEFENSIVE
Your mentor has years of first-hand experience, that’s why you want to learn from them, right? As a mentee, it is crucial that you ask for feedback constantly. Although criticism is difficult to take in sometimes, it is an integral part of our personal and professional development. What is important to note about feedback, is how to interpret them as constructive criticism. As a mentee, you should be able to separate your personal insecurities from what your mentor is trying to communicate with you. Often, we are unable to take criticism constructively because we project our personal insecurities to the situation instead of directing the comments strictly to the event.
Mentors will oftentimes have a different point of view from you. Try not to get defensive because they are there to show you alternative ways to criticize situations and tackle situations. Appreciate their honesty with you. If you have concerns with their suggestions, discuss them openly to arrive at a consensus.
RESPECT YOUR MENTOR’S TIME
Working with mentors can test your ability to multitask. Recurrently, your mentor may give you a variety of work to be completed; this is because they want to give you as much work experience in the field as possible, and they also have less time to dedicate to their own work after taking you under their wing. Respect your mentor’s time and complete work promptly. This also extends to your communication efforts. Returning their phone calls and emails promptly allows them to schedule extra help or reorganize their personal schedules in the event that you are unable to complete assigned tasks or if you are otherwise unavailable to do so.
TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
This section goes hand-in-hand with respecting your mentor’s time. If you are in business, your mentor is likely a successful business person. If you are a teacher, your mentor is likely a successful professor. If you are in culinary arts, your mentor is likely an extremely busy executive chef. Whatever your field is, it is important to take your mentorship relationship seriously. Again, it is not often that mentees are able to choose their own mentors and be given the opportunity to work alongside them. So, take it seriously!
Consider looking at your opportunity from the perspective of a person who did not get the same chance as you. Perhaps it is because they could not commit the time. Or, maybe it is because your mentor, out of all the individuals who had approached them, chose you to be their mentee. Be gracious that you are able to learn from your mentor because there are others who may be willing to work harder than you but were not given the break to.
Mentors have a great impact on their mentees’ lives. They are the ones who develop their critical thinking skills so that their mentees are able to take on challenges in their professional careers in ways that direct them to success. When you write our graduation notes to be printed in your high school yearbook, many of us thank our teachers, family, and friends for helping us get through the five years of secondary school. Why not do the same for your mentors? Mentors do a lot for you – they may invite you to sit in meetings or go to conferences and networking events that will connect you even more so with individuals in your field. Those are opportunities that not very many people get. It is important that you show your gratitude to your mentor because without them, you would probably have to take the long route to your destination.
Respect Your Mentor’s Confidence
Your mentor’s experiences are priceless. They have likely worked with numerous organizations, with each one giving them more knowledge. With every endeavor your mentor has gone through, they gain more confidence. Respect their sureness and be open to their suggestions. If you do find yourself questioning the legitimacy of their actions, talk to them directly. Everyone comes with their personal beliefs and values, and mentors are there to open your eyes to different solutions, not to challenge your principles.
Let Your Mentor Invite You In
First and foremost, your mentor is there to be your professional role model. They are there to show you the ins and outs of your career so that you may accelerate yourself to your professional growth and development. However, because some mentorship relationships require both parties to work closely together for long periods of time, it is inevitable that professional relationships become more personal. If this is the case, let your mentor invite you into their lives. Remember, as a mentee you are there to learn from their professional experiences first.
Keep The Doors Open
When you stay in relationships that no longer have a purpose, it is doing the other party and yourself a disservice. Eventually, your mentorship relationship will run its course, and you, as a mentee, will need to leave the relationship.
It is important not to burn bridges when you leave any mentorship relationship. Keeping the doors open between yourself and your mentor allows an opportunity to work collaboratively again in the future.
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