Mentorship is an asset. Here’s how to make the most of this unique kind of relationship, and help strengthen you and your business.
Suppose you once had a boss who inspired you.
Now, a few jobs later, you’re remembering her wisdom. You’ve gained perspective with the passage of time — and you’d love to count her as your professional mentor.
What’s the best way to initiate a mentoring relationship like this?
Mentorship is an asset to business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. No one person does everything well, and a professional mentor can help reveal your blind spots and sharpen your strengths as your business grows.
A Unique Friendship
Having chemistry and history with a potential mentor helps, but this won’t be a typical friendship.
A mentoring relationship should possess certain boundaries in order to develop your professional skills. It’s a formal relationship for a professional purpose, and it requires some discipline.
In other words, your former boss can become your mentor, but you probably won’t become best friends.
And that’s the point.
While a mentoring relationship may help a mentor refine some of her skills and improve her business, the recipient of her wisdom — the mentee — will ultimately gain the most from the relationship, if it’s managed properly.
When you’re lucky enough to establish a formal mentoring relationship, take good care of it. Here are some strategies for making the most of this unique type of friendship.
1. Establish Types of Communication & Frequency of Contact
You’ll communicate you’re serious about growing as a mentee if you establish some expectations for a mentoring relationship. By agreeing on how often you will meet, your new relationship is more likely to become a priority for both you and your mentor. Be sure to discuss the best ways to contact each other, and find out acceptable ways to contact each other on the fly.
2. Discover Different Ways to Facilitate Mentorship
Variety is the spice of life – and that goes for mentoring relationships, too. Make time for regular get-togethers, but find ways to enrich your conversations beyond the day-to-day. Consider reading a book together and taking time to discuss it. Pick a service project together and fulfill it. By exploring new activities together, you’ll get to know each other in a whole new way.
3. Express Your Appreciation
Thanking your mentor is critical to the longevity of your relationship. Express your appreciation in person, send thank you notes, remember her birthday, perhaps even send flowers. Find ways to acknowledge her investment in you by telling her that you value her time and attention.
4. Have Your Mentor Observe You in Action
What better way for your mentor to get to know you than by inviting her to watch you at work? Of course, it may not be appropriate to bring your mentor to your job itself, but with a little creativity, she can get a good feel for your strengths and opportunities for growth. Invite her to attend your speaking engagement or to accompany you to a networking event or one-on-one meeting, and then listen to her insights.
5. Learn Your Mentor’s Story
You selected your mentor for a reason, but do you know her story? A mentoring relationship is often a one-way street, and you can help enrich the dynamic by getting to know her better. What hardships did she overcome? What would she do differently? Interview her like she’s a famous person in order to understand how her journey has influenced her own growth.
There’s no better way to cement a professional mentoring relationship than by managing it well. As the mentee, it’s your responsibility to drive the relationship, and with some discipline and creativity, you’ll gain a mentoring friendship that goes the distance and enriches you both.
About Emily D. Tisdale, Founder & CEO
Meet the brains — and heart — behind LEAP for Women. Emily is LEAP’s guiding force, committed to supporting women entrepreneurs at every stage in their journey.
She loves LEAP because:
A resident of Indiana, Emily prides herself on being a transplanted Hoosier and enjoys watching Colts football and spending time with her husband and their two children.