How to Get the Most Out of Mentoring
W e tend to think of mentoring as a one-way street where a more experienced professional shares their advice and tips…without the mentee’s input.
But that is not how mentoring works. Mentoring is a two-way relationship between two individuals where experience, knowledge, and connections are shared to learn, support and empower one another.
Real growth happens when there is shared knowledge. So, a mentor can help you grow your skills, gain new perspectives and guide you, but mentees can also help their mentors with their career growth.
Here at LMF Network, we are big believers in the power of mentoring, community and skills development. We’ve launched SIX (!) mentoring schemes — including the largest digital programme in the UK — achieving rates of 89% feeling upskilled after each workshop and 96% more confident to take on new opportunities and challenges after joining our mentoring programme. Some have even had £25,000 pay raises and gone on holiday together!
We love mentoring so much that we are launching a new 4-week virtual programme this June 2023! You will work with experienced mentors and participate in career-based workshops. Interested? You can express your interest here.
Mentorship can be the key to unlocking your full potential in your career. But how can you get the most out of a mentoring relationship?
Here are the top advice mentors and industry leaders shared with the LMF Network.
Manage expectations within the mentoring relationship.
Although a mentor can be an experienced professional who can support, advise and guide you, they are not “a fixer-of-all-things”’, said Emma Alexander, co-founder of Wisern and a mentor within the creative sector.
“A mentor doesn’t provide the answers. A mentor provides the space to work through the questions…[but] only the mentee can make the changes required for impact.”
That is why the importance of being realistic, as Jeremy Stern, CEO of PromoVeritas, pointed out based on his experience mentoring three people under two different schemes. Mentors need to “manage their [mentees] expectations; otherwise, they are likely to fall — hard.”
How can this be achieved? Honesty, according to Colin Jolliffe, Director at SW Business Support Solutions.
“Always be honest and frank with a mentor. They are not there to judge you but to help you.”
Be willing to learn.
While it might seem obvious, both parties in the mentoring relationship must be open-minded to learning from one another.
“By being willing to learn and grow, one can successfully make the most of their mentoring relationship and achieve personal and professional growth”, replied Nikki Webb, Global Channel Manager for Custodian360.
This is an idea that Jessica Shee, Marketing Manager at iBoysoft, a leading High-Tech company, shared. “Your mentor likely has a wealth of knowledge and experience that they can share with you, so approach the relationship with a willingness to listen and learn.”
However, not only the mentee, or the ‘less experienced one’, needs to be willing to learn.
“Being comfortable learning from those younger and less experienced takes confidence, but it’s happening”, explained Steve Jefferys, Founder & Coach at YourShift. “Our multi-generational workforce is making the ‘older knows best’ adage looking increasingly outdated”.
According to Webb, another thing to get comfortable with is being “open to feedback and accepting of constructive criticism.”
Be prepared and have clear goals.
As with any new project or personal initiative, having clear goals and expectations for what you want to achieve is key — same with any mentoring relationship.
Some questions Shee suggested are “What are you hoping to achieve? What skills or areas of knowledge would you like to develop?”.
Then, talking to your mentor comes next. Webb shared, “[c]ommunicating these goals to your mentor can help both parties to stay focused on what is most important”; it also helps you be “on the same page and work towards achieving your goals together”, according to Shee.
Another aspect of getting the best out of your mentoring relationship is preparation.
Webb said, “being prepared for each mentoring session with specific questions and topics to discuss can help make the most of the time with your mentor.”
Alexander explained that while it is good to talk and explore the problems rather than rush the solution, there must be a clear idea of what a successful mentoring session looks like.
For example, “it’s great for mentors to note the halfway point of the session and use this check-in to [ensure] the conversation is moving in the right direction. You want your mentee to take great value from your time together, so make sure you’re answering their core issue.”
She added a tip for mentees to help with this session’s preparation. “Mentees, try to have a core question/challenge in mind. This can change and evolve as you work together”.
Consider your mentor’s advice and use their time wisely.
One thing we must remember is that both mentors and mentees are putting time and effort into the mentoring process. So being present is critical to using their time wisely, as Jolliffe says.
“The mentor is giving their time, and the mentee is sharing their challenges — be present. No phones, no email alerts, be present and focused”, mentioned Alexander.
Active listening is another aspect of being present and making the most of mentoring. How? According to Webb,
By “[p]aying close attention to what your mentor has to say and asking clarifying questions can demonstrate that you value their insights and perspectives”.
Also another aspect of a successful mentoring relationship is applying the advice and guidance received. “This can be achieved by making a plan to implement the ideas and strategies discussed in the mentoring sessions”, explained Webb.
Shee also shared how important it is “to express…gratitude and let [your mentor] know how much you appreciate their guidance.”
Accountability and commitment are essential.
With his experience mentoring three people, Stern suggested an excellent tip for mentors to keep track of their mentoring relationships.
“Take good notes. It is easy to forget the details of previous conversations held a month earlier. Use those notes to hold the other person to account. If they said they were going to update their CV, have they?”
From what mentors and industry leaders have shared, accountability and commitment can come from communication and proactiveness.
As Shee explained:
“Don’t wait for your mentor to reach out to you all the time. Take the initiative to schedule meetings or ask questions. This will show your mentor that you are committed to the relationship and are eager to learn.”
Furthermore, Webb pointed out that,
“maintaining regular communication with your mentor, even after the formal mentoring relationship has ended, can be beneficial. This can involve sharing updates on progress and seeking advice as needed.”
And finally…enjoy and appreciate your mentoring relationship.
Shee expressed, “[o]verall, a mentorship relationship can be an incredibly rewarding experience if both parties are committed to making it work. So go ahead and dive in — you never know where this journey may take you!” Joliffee joined in and said that “A good mentor will always support you no matter what you do.”
As Webb mentioned, “mentoring relationships can offer a multitude of benefits for personal and professional development.”
For Jefferey, reverse mentoring becoming commonplace is making mentoring move “from a traditional, stiff ‘obligation’ to a fluid, meaningful and mutually beneficial undertaking”.
That is something that Megan Jackson, Communications and Fundraising Assistant at Shannon Trust, agreed on when talking about using peer mentoring to build a scheme.
“Working one to one means that they form a bond — it’s a partnership, rather than a teacher-pupil relationship. It can be hard to admit you need help, but the learner-mentor relationship is built on trust and friendship.”
Finally, Alexander gave us an interesting piece of advice: mentoring should be a positive experience for both parties.
“If either of you aren’t feeling the connection or don’t feel the fit is quite right, it’s fine to end the relationship and move on.”
If you are still doubting whether mentoring is for you, here are some of the benefits of participating in a mentoring programme or relationship:
- Personal and professional growth by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, and career goals and having a mentor that supports you whilst you work towards achieving them.
- Networking opportunities since a mentoring relationship can open the door to new connections and opportunities to connect with like-minded people within our outside your industry.
- Increased confidence by having someone to turn to for advice and support can boost your self-confidence and help you feel more empowered to tackle new challenges.
- Career advancement since you will have someone who can guide and advise you as you progress in your career, helping you identify new opportunities and navigate any roadblocks that may arise.
Still unsure? Please don’t take it from us, and instead, read the experiences of other participants from the LMF mentoring programmes on our Profiles in Spotlight Series.
We would love to help and empower you as you strive to become the best version of yourself and achieve your career goals.
So, sign here to express your interest in our June 2023 programme: https://forms.gle/6mqifzoYWnddwpBz9
We can’t wait to see you thrive this summer!
Are you ready?
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LMFnetwork is a talent network and inclusion consultancy bridging career gaps and redefining inclusive working cultures. Work with us on all things talent attraction, retention and development. Our offerings include a mentorship programme, a jobs board, a careers podcast and ED&I strategic workshops.
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Written by Alejandra (Alex) Chávez Menéndez.
Alex is the Communications Manager for LMF Network.
Outside of her time with LMFnetwork, she is a Public Affairs Consultant with 8+ years of experience and the founder of Point A. Alex is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, small businesses, and changemakers tell their stories and share what they believe in. She has a master’s in Public Administration and Management from University College London (UCL).