Mentors are the single most under-utilised free career resource that everyone can have access to.
They can get you jobs, referrals to incredible people and advice that can make your mind 20 years wiser.
Nowadays, there are an abundance of mentoring programs available, in universities, online communities and in workplaces.
Despite this, it’s still very rare to see mentor-mentee relationships that provide long-term value.
Today, I will be sharing how to have a mentor-mentee relationship that actually makes an impact in your career.
Learnings 1-3 relate to choosing your mentor.
Too many people forget that if your mentor isn’t the right one for you, your relationship with them won’t be valuable no matter how much effort you put in.
Pick the right mentor, and you are already half-way there.
1. Your mentor should be where you want to be in your career
If your mentor isn’t exactly where you want to be career-wise, how can they help you get there?
This is the simplest and most important quality your mentor should have.
2. Your mentor has to be inherently interested in helping people
I am surprised by the number of people who look for mentorship by cold-messaging people on Linkedin.
You want a mentor who is genuinely interested helping people, and the most kind-hearted and experienced mentors can already be found volunteering in:
- University societies
- Online communities
- Workplace mentoring programs
Look in these places before trying your luck elsewhere.
3. They should be someone who you could be genuine friends with
People are naturally more generous to others they can relate to.
In my experience, the best mentors I had were people I genuinely love spending time with.
This will be a trial-and-error process, but it is definitely worth it.
Otherwise, you will gradually find spending time with them exhausting, and they will too — the relationship simply won’t be sustainable.
4. Be up front about what you want early
If you want a job from your mentor, don’t try to hide it.
People hate it when you go about things in a round-about way.
This is a story from my manager, who had a person reach out to him on Linkedin:
I could tell from the start that he wanted a job. But he spent the first 15 minutes trying to make small talk and I could just tell he wasn’t being genuine. I stopped him and asked: “You want a job, don’t you?” He said “Yes”. I said: “Great, now we are on the same page, let’s talk.”
People can’t help you if they don’t understand what you want.
What’s the worst thing that can happen?
In the story above, my manager didn’t end up offering him a job. Instead, he offered his advice on:
- What technical skills he needs to work on
- How to improve his resume
- Information on recruitment process
If your mentor volunteered their time to help you, they will to the best of their ability, even if they can’t offer you the job from the start.
5. You will still need to prove yourself
At the end of the day, you still need your mentor to have a great perception of you to get the most out of them.
If your mentor is your manager, excel at your job first.
If you don’t have work experience, go do a personal project or publish writings on a related field.
If you still don’t know where to start, ask your mentor!
People love and support those who are passionate and willing to try more than those who are just gifted.
6. Follow up! [TEMPLATES PROVIDED]
Too many people neglect keeping in touch with their mentors and wonder why their relationship hasn’t progressed.
We have a great guide on following up with your mentor in a productive way with templates provided. Check it out here.
Mentoring can be a vehicle to accelerate your career like no other, but you only get as much as how much you put in.
This advice is by no means meant to be easy to implement, but we truly believe what’s on the other side will be worth it!