I recently had the opportunity to lead a webinar for the Association for Women in Communications as part of its “Speed Mentoring” development program. Mentors have played a significant role in my career, and I was humbled and excited to pay it forward by sharing some of my perspectives.

As with any personal relationship, professional relationships require care and feeding. And if handled right, those relationships can be hugely impactful in terms of career growth and direction. There are multiple benefits to cultivating business mentorships and relationships:

  • They uncover career opportunities you didn’t know existed
  • They provide an exponential network to tap into
  • They provide a trusted space to learn, grow and gain confidence
  • They give you broader perspective outside your day-to-day role and a sense of what’s ultimately possible

Here are my top three tips for mentees to get the most out of a mentoring relationship:

1) Set your intention. Before you think about who you want as a mentor, start with the why. What do you want out of a mentorship? Maybe it’s to learn new skills, identify advancement opportunities; work through personal performance challenges or conflicts, build your professional network; or change jobs or companies. Sometimes it’s just about making connections. Perhaps you’ve simply been inspired by someone you heard speak at an event or read an interesting news article about someone and wanted to reach out to grab lunch and get acquainted. Those connections can and do happen. 

2) Identify the right person. Once your intention is set, think about what type of person would best suit you. Are they at your company or outside of your company? Are they in-house or at an agency? In what industry do they work? At what level are they? Other questions to ask yourself: Who do you aspire to become or are inspired by? Who is best aligned with your career goals? Who has a set of skills you are trying to learn? Who works at a company or in a business unit where you want to get a job?

Maybe you’re well established in your career, and are looking for ways to keep pace with the changes happening in the communications industry. Consider a reverse mentorship. This is a multi-generational workforce – we have Millennials, Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers all in one office. What a tremendous opportunity to learn from one another.

In terms of where to find a mentor, many companies also have formal and informal mentoring programs, so ask your manager or HR department. Externally, LinkedIn is a great resource – most people I know are more than willing to connect over LinkedIn and at least commit to an informational interview. Once you get that face-to-face time, you have opened to door to a longer-term relationship.

Once you’ve found them, do your homework to get to know everything about them – what’s their job history, what are they sharing on Twitter or LinkedIn, what blog posts have they written, etc. – and reach out with a personally tailored communication outlining why you’re looking for a mentor and why you feel their experience and expertise are well aligned with your career path.

3) Be Focused. Once you’ve landed your mentor, be focused with every engagement. Set an agenda for each mentoring session to keep the discussion on track and get the most of the valuable time you’re sharing with your mentor. Be open to the conversations – mentors may push you out of your comfort zone and may encourage you to challenge yourself – be open to those possibilities. A good mentor isn’t there to tell you what you want to hear. He/she will challenge you, question you, and encourage you to grow. They will advocate for you, and ultimately, help you advocate for yourself.

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