How to be Successfully Mentored: 5 Golden Rules for Effective Mentee-ship
The relationship between Mentor and Mentee is a waltz between two people of different professional levels. It is like the popular ‘it takes two to tango’ saying in dance because for there to be a mentor, there has to be a mentee. While there are a lot of articles out there on how to be a good mentor, there are very few articles dedicated to educating people on how to maintain and make the most of a mentee-ship (mentor – mentee relationship). This discrepancy is regrettable, as mentoring requires specific behaviors, without which the success of the mentee is jeopardized. Likewise, Mentee-ship has certain rules that enable success. It is safe to say that for anybody to be get the best out of mentorship, he/she will have to know how to go about it. This is why I have taken my time to research the golden rules for a most effective mentee-ship.
1. Pick the Right Mentor(s)
It is crucial to make the right mentor selection. Since one person can hardly provide everything a mentee might need in/from a mentor (though possible, it is seldom the case), a mentoring team composed of content, clinical or strategic mentors is a useful model. A key theme echoed by multiple mentors is for you_ as a prospective mentee, to ensure that your goals are consistent with the skills and expertise that somebody you admire can share with you. You must be in an active search for a role model–someone you’re like. You may also need somebody with a broad network of contacts and influence in a certain field to promote your work. Recall that someone at the top of your field may not necessarily be a good mentor even though that person may be highly successful. For a good mentee-ship relationship, the mentor’s personal attributes (i.e., patience) and his values (i.e. Altruism) are crucial. You would like to respect and trust your mentor. Also, you should be sure that your chosen mentor is interested in what is best for you. Avoid exposure to “mentorship misuse” at all costs, which refers to when mentors benefit from and treat mentees unfairly, thereby harming their careers. The identification of such problematic mentors is not easy, but it is possible to talk to current or past mentees and glean information. Note that on both sides there are responsibilities; hence you should avoid exploitative behaviors. It is ill advised to treat your mentor like an employer whose primary objective is the opening of doors, a proofreader or an unpaid psychotherapist.
Before selecting a mentor, one of the several compelling things to understand is self-discovery. The way to discover the person’s ability, capacity, character, lack and many other characteristics is self-discovery. By self-discovery, you can know exactly who you are, what you want and areas you are lacking or falling short. Self-discovery is essential because you become more open and aware of what you need and what you possess that needs to be improved on and this only happens when you understand yourself. If you have this information, look for the right mentor who is ready to help you unleash your potential and guide you on effective maximization. Lastly, only select a mentor if you find that you need it.
2. Be Respectful of Your Mentor’s Time
The time of your mentor is valuable. Anyone who is qualified as a mentor is more than likely to have several other mentees. The mentee who respects the time of a mentor and finds ways to use him productively is a mentee best suited for the position. This means that your mentor must be active in scheduling appointments. Instead of consulting secretaries, calendars and dailies for an ideal time, have regular slots in their itinerary. Preparation is the key to effectively using your time with your mentor. You have to plan for meetings with agendas and focus points like clinical, research, administrative or personal updates. Include a schedule as to how much time you and your mentor should spend on the most important things. In addition to identifying problems, try proposing solutions to assist your mentor in deciding which response might be the best; this is a tactic called “managing up” in the business world. Also help your mentor prepare for your meetings by making requests for actionable things they can do in advance e.g. “Please check this scientific abstract so that we can discuss it at our meeting.”
3. Ensure to Communicate Efficiently and Effectively
The mentors we contacted unanimously felt that effective communication was critical to a successful mentee-ship. Importantly, the mentee needs considerable effort and preparation. Only when they know your objectives and activities, barriers and how they help you to overcome these barriers can mentors assist and thus be optimal in their roles as mentors. We believe you should start your relationship with your mentor using honest conversations about your objectives and aspirations. It may be useful if a written plan of short and long-term concrete goals is adopted, which helps to identify whether there is a shared vision of success. Clarify roles and expectations on both sides, so as to reduce subsequent conflict, tension and deception. Meetings should take place where much of the mentorship action takes place, either in person or by telephone. You should also develop a regular communication rapport like the discussion of new projects before committing yourself to them.
Avoid multi-paragraph emails with vague questions buried in the text. Rather, focused messages with a brief background that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No” are ideal. It is also imperative to assume that during or between your requests, your mentor will answer and may use a mobile device to answer. In order for most mentors to assist you efficiently, they need proper and timely notification. Plan to give your mentor sufficient notice and verify that your mentor can answer your request.
4. Ensure that you are Engaging, Energetic and Collaborative
Mentors are humans and they like people who are fun, energetic and fully committed and will definitely prefer working with such individuals. Behaviors that are emotionally draining hurt your mentee-ship. Mentees need to show that they are mature and genuinely open to learning without placing the responsibility of their emotional well-being on their mentors. Those who express negative emotions or take a defensive stand on feedback should be aware that mentors may frown on their reactions. Remember to be punctual in your career and to create a reputation. Given that people gravitate intuitively towards an implicit reference point, it is important to acquire a “closer” standing– one that follows tasks promptly. If you agree to do anything, understand that this is a firm commitment and ensure that you achieve high standards in time. Lastly, be generous and honest in giving credit to others. By engaging with your mentor, your colleagues, and the broader community, you will soon become invaluable not only to your mentor, but to your institution as well.
5. Be Open Minded
In all relationships, communication is key. However, it is particularly important when it comes to professional mentorship, since neither side wishes to waste time. As a mentee, prepare the agenda before the meeting and take the initiative to draw out the topics each session will cover. You should also raise questions or issues and listen to the advice of your mentor. Get as much of your mentor’s knowledge and advice as possible. You might be able to terminate your relationship if you think your meetings are no longer productive or that you don’t get enough assistance in a given area.
If you are a mentor, you have to be honest with your mentee. Try to be constructive always before you make strategic plans and progress and also, explain what they need to do. Positive but honest feedback will encourage and guide your mentee in the right direction. Overall, both parties must be involved in the development of a successful mentoring program. Exceptional communication, great commitment, mutual respect and trust are key to a successful mentee-ship.