little preparation goes a long way when establishing a mentoring partnership.
Do you want
a mentor? Do you need a mentor? If you answered "yes" to these
questions and if you have seriously thought about seeking a mentor, chances
are you will benefit from the mentoring experience. But before you begin
your search for the ideal mentor, there are a number of issues you need
to consider. Following is advice to help you prepare for a successful
your mentoring needs
Before approaching a potential mentor, you need to identify what you hope
to gain from a mentoring relationship and what type of a mentor is best
for helping you meet your objectives. Start by identifying your short-term
career goals. Where do you see yourself in the next year or two? What
knowledge, skills, and abilities do you need to get there? What key experiences
could a mentor provide that would benefit you most? Answers to these questions
will help you identify the type of mentor that is right for you. For example,
depending on your goals, you may want to seek a high-ranking executive
whose career path you would like to learn from. Or you may want a mentor
closer to your level of experience, but who you feel could help you in
very specific areas of growth and knowledge.
a mentor who is right for you
Besides being able to meet your developmental needs, the best mentors
are people who are excited about learning and who are continuing their
own development. Also, good mentors will achieve a sense of personal satisfaction
from seeing others succeed and have a desire to be active participants
in others' learning and growth. You'll want to seek out someone who possesses
such traits and who also sets high standards for his or her work and can
set an example for you. If no potential mentors readily come to mind,
ask your colleagues or managers if they know of anyone they think would
make a good mentor for you. Your organization may have a mentoring program
that can pair you with a mentor based on your goals and the mentor's knowledge
and skills. You can also find potential mentors outside your organization
by attending meetings and events hosted by your professional association.
your potential mentor
Much of the onus for initiating a mentoring relationship is, and should
be, on the protege. You need to have the self-confidence to approach a
potential mentor and effectively present the merits of a mentoring relationship.
Once you have found an appropriate individual, approach your potential
mentor with a well-developed plan for your partnership. Having done your
homework will be very beneficial at this point; share your short-term
goals, your accomplishments, and your major developmental needs and objectives.
Your potential mentor needs to know if he or she will be able to help
you acquire the skills or competencies you want to develop. Be completely
honest in your explanation of why you want a mentor and why you are asking
this particular individual. Realize that your potential mentor may feel
that he or she is not an appropriate choice for you, or the individual
may not have the time to commit right now. Many individuals who are asked
to be mentors are honored at the request, and although they may not have
considered mentoring someone before, often agree to give it a try. If
the person agrees to begin a mentoring relationship, you'll want to have
a focused conversation about what you both want to accomplish.
for the first meeting
One of your biggest responsibilities as a protege is to make sure you
are getting what you need from your mentor. Remember, in a mentoring relationship,
you must be the driver. Your first meeting is the perfect time to get
your relationship moving in the right direction. To prepare for this meeting,
consider the following questions:
- What should
your mentor know about you in order to work most successfully with you?
- How do
you learn best-by reading, observing, doing, or listening?
- What are
your desired outcomes for the mentoring relationship?
- What do
you expect from your mentor?
- How will
you know if the relationship is working?
ask your mentor to come prepared with answers to questions such as:
- What do
you expect from me as your protege?
- What do
you think will be able to help me most?
- How do
you like to work with people you are teaching and developing?
- What do
you want to gain from this partnership?
to these questions will help you establish goals and objectives for the
mentoring relationship. Finding the right mentor can greatly enhance your
personal and professional development. Taking the time to think about
your career goals, developmental needs, and the type of mentor you want
early on will help you get the most out of your relationship.
Ambrose is a managing partner at Perrone-Ambrose Associates, Inc., an
organizational development consulting firm that helps organizations create
mentoring cultures. He is author of the book A Mentor's Companion.
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Executive, May/June 2002