Part 1 of this blog post focused on how a mentor can successfully encourage and advise mentees toward success. This week we take a look at the role of the mentee in the relationship.
Having a mentor has long been proven an effective way to help develop new skills, improve workplace performance and boost personal confidence. By providing knowledgeable guidance, encouragement and feedback, a mentor can help you reduce your risk of mistakes and increase your productivity—both of which make you more valuable to your employer now and help open the door to more opportunities in the future.
It may seem that some people have the good fortune to “fall into” a stable and productive mentoring relationship. But you don’t have to leave it all to chance. There are a few essential qualities you can nurture to increase the likelihood—and benefits—of your relationship with a workplace mentor.
From the Mentee’s Perspective
Initiative. “You can lead a horse to water…” as they say. As a mentee, you must want to learn and take an active role in the relationship. Ask questions. Be curious. Don’t simply sit around waiting for new information or opportunities to present themselves.
Sense of direction. Closely related to this, you need to have a sense of what you’d like to learn and why. What’s important to you? What are the areas of expertise or skill sets you’d like to strengthen? Where would you like to be a year from now? Two years from now? Even five years from now?
Humility. There’s often more than one way to reach a goal. Recognize that you don’t know it all and be willing to consider alternate approaches.
Flexibility. As noted above! Flexibility is essential in all relationships, but particularly important when trying to adapt to a new role or organization.
Openness. While you always want to “put your best foot forward,” there must also be a willingness to share what you don’t know, or aren’t as confident in. Understand that change may feel uncomfortable at times, and be willing to work through it.
Honesty. Putting forth a false front can hardly be expected to result in relevant direction. It’s important to be honest, with your mentor and with yourself. A key additional consideration of an effective mentoring relationship is accountability—a willingness to be challenged and/or to challenge yourself.
Positive. Look for, and relish the good. It often seems easier to find fault or criticize, to make excuses or lay blame. I’m not advocating a pollyanna approach, but encouraging you to take ownership of who you are and what you do. After all, that’s how you got this job in the first place, isn’t it?