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5 Tips for mentees on how to prepare for mentorship

Mentorship can boost your career. But it is important to prepare for it to get maximum from it. Here are the 5 tips for mentees on how to prepare for the mentorship.

Research, define a goal

Before you start, define a goal that you want to achieve. Don’t think that your mentor will formulate the goal for you or understand what’s best for you. Getting a mentor is not a silver bullet.

If you have a “I’m lost, help me to understand what to do” request to your mentor, you have way fewer chances to find the right mentor and be successful in this mentorship. You need to do your homework and make your request or goal specific.

A request “I’m lost, help me to understand what to do. I did some research and I have a theory that the data analyst role is a great start for me. I have the following plan, but I’m not sure how realistic it is”. This goal is more specific, that’s why you have more chances to find the right mentor with the set of skills you need and get real help from your mentor.

I had a case where my mentee had a request “I need help with finding my first product management job”. When I started asking questions I realized that the mentee didn’t google anything about the process of finding a product management job. This is not the best way to build long-term relations with the mentor. Do your homework, research, and ask specific questions. Don’t ask a mentor the general questions you can google in 10 seconds. Do your research, identify your blind spot, ask for help.

Dedicate time

You need to dedicate time to mentoring, homework, and preparation for each session. Understand how much time you can dedicate on a weekly basis, how much time you need to dedicate to meet your goals. You will need dedicated time each week to be able to make progress. Dedicating 3 hours weekly is much better than 12 hours once a month.

Plan time, so you can process information, reflect, take notes after the session and send it to the mentor as well. 

Sometimes people start mentorship and realize that they don’t have enough time for it. It could be frustrating for both mentee and mentor. 

Define a mentor’s profile

Choosing the right mentor is super important. You can be lucky and get a Vice President as a mentor, but if your goal is to start your career, then VP is not the best mentor profile. Probably, a person who recently started a career in this area (1-3 years ago) will be a better mentor profile.

Each mentor has limitations, you need to be prepared for them. Nobody is perfect. Don’t get frustrated, if your mentor cannot cover all the questions you have.

If you have a multi-step complicated plan and cannot find the perfect mentor, then you may consider having a separate mentor for each step. 

Be open-minded, honest, and ready for feedback

It is hard to be reviewed, it is hard to receive feedback. Be honest and don’t try to hide issues. Your mentor is here to help, so be honest. There is no shame in lack of knowledge or experience, it’s ok to make mistakes.

Try not to be defensive. Your mentor wishes you the best and is eager to help. You just need to be ready to receive this help.

Try to be open-minded and don’t reject the proposed solution right away, even if you have already tried it. Maybe the solution is good, but the implementation wasn’t right last time. Listen first, try to understand the point, then share your story and ask for your opinion. 

Be proactive

Just listening quietly is not the best strategy. Mentoring is a two-way street. It is not a lecture. Ask questions, brainstorm ideas. Be an active participant. And remember that you are responsible for taking actions, follow-ups, etc. 

If you don’t understand something, ask, don’t be afraid to look stupid. If you need help, say so. 

Don’t feel stressed about the mentorship. Your mentor invests time and energy in your relationships, that’s why the mentor is super interested in your success. And good luck in your upcoming mentorship!

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Lilia Gorbachik, a contact center product manager with more than 15 years of experience in building and launching products.

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