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How to Get the Most Out of a Mentor

Pretty much everyone agrees that finding a good mentor is a key part of career advancement for young workers, but is the simple act of lassoing a more experienced guide to the corporate world enough? No, says Meghna Majmudar, writing on the blog of author Keith Ferrazzi recently. A good mentor-mentee relationship is not solely the responsibility of the more senior member of the pair. The younger member can do a lot to make sure the partnership is fruitful. Majmudar offers three sensible suggestions to get the most out of your mentor:

  • Mentorship starts with generosity--and vulnerability. Yes, there is the gift of time from the mentor, but equally important is being vulnerable and sharing where you really need help.
  • Be specific about the feedback and input you want. Don't just ask the mentor to "help" you, share the specific questions you are struggling with so that the advice you receive is immediately useful.
  • Stay in touch. Let your mentor know how things are going from time to time. I try to stay in touch every with an e-mail or hand-written card every two to three months -â€" this way, if you need their help again, you won't feel awkward or have to catch them up on everything!
Majmudar's tips are solid, but she's hardly the first to take up the topic. So, if you're looking for even more ways to be a better mentee, Jodi Glickman Brown offers several additional tips on the HBR Conversation Starter blog, including:
  • Send "TOUs" or thinking of yous Share articles of interest or relevant news stories. Keep your mentor's projects and areas of influence on your radar so that you can weigh in periodically on thought-provoking topics. You can even set up Google alerts on her key clients to make sure you're the first to see breaking news -- then pass it along and make sure she's "in the know" too.
  • Provide insight into the rank and file of your organization Senior leaders often feel out of touch with the cubicle culture and lack meaningful interaction with the front lines of their organization. You may be able to share reactions of your peers to a new corporate policy or change in organizational structure. Giving your mentor feedback or insight into employee morale is a great way to give back.
(Image of everyone's favorite movie mentor by fuzzcat, CC 2.0)
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