When establishing yourself in a new industry, building a relationship with a mentor – someone who coaches and guides you to obtain a better knowledge of your industry and profession – is arguably one of the most important professional steps you can take.

In fact, individuals with mentors are five times more likely to get promoted than individuals without mentors. Mentors are important because they often help less experienced workers learn new skills, inspire career growth and set professional goals.

However, just as there are ways to exceed in being a mentor, there are ways to become an equally strong mentee. Below are some of my tips for those who are looking to make the most out of their mentor relationships:

  • Ask intentional questions. Building a relationship with your mentor starts by forming a foundation that shows your mentor your current understanding of industry skills and knowledge. This can be done by asking thoughtful and intentional questions.

While asking questions can be intimidating, it allows your mentor to meet you where you are. Additionally, asking questions is vital for clarifying expectations and demonstrating your commitment to delivering quality work to your mentor. This can also indicate to your colleagues that you are open to change and willing to learn.

  • Do research. Before approaching your mentor with a question, conduct your own research so you are as prepared as possible. Not only will this improve your industry knowledge and facilitate learning, but it will also show your mentor that you took the time to try to address the question or solve the problem on your own before bringing it to their attention. Research will also help supplement your questions or idea with proof points and data, so that when you present it to your mentor, it is well thought out and thoroughly analyzed. This step will help your mentor learn your thought process, assist in streamlining next steps, and demonstrate your commitment to being solutions-oriented.
  • Take initiative. Taking initiative shows your mentor that you are committed to enhancing your skills by implementing their feedback and that you can think through the next steps. It illustrates proactiveness, critical thinking and leadership, and will benefit you throughout your career.

Taking initiative can be as simple as doing additional reading, signing up for supplemental training, or sharing the results of research you conducted independently. Some other ways you can start taking initiative include seeking new responsibilities, stepping in during a co-worker’s absence, or volunteering to assist in work from other teams or departments.

  • Solicit feedback. When your mentor provides feedback on your work, instead of letting it defeat or frustrate you, consider how you’ll apply it to improve your work on future projects. Keep in mind that you will make mistakes and that it is OK. However, it is up to you to learn from those mistakes and to continue to apply the lessons you learn to future assignments.

Feedback, when implemented appropriately, is known to improve performance in the workplace. Once you receive coaching, always demonstrate to your mentor that you are effectively internalizing and applying the feedback to exhibit your growth and improvement. This indicates to your mentor that you value their guidance and that you are utilizing your relationship with them to help you grow.

One teaching or learning style does not work for everyone, so developing a strong mentor-mentee relationship is often a trial-and-error process. Get to know your coach and become familiar with their work style, as they are becoming familiar with yours. Be patient in allowing this relationship to evolve and find ways to help your mentor help you. Doing these things will help you to become the best mentee you can be.

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