I have always found mentorship relationships that start off informally to be easy to manage.
They don't feel awkward like the mentorship relationships that start with a mentee asking the mentor, "may you please be my mentor?"
This got me thinking about why I felt this way? To answer this, I have to reflect on the time when I asked a senior/role-model to be my mentor, and when I was asked by a mentee to be their mentor.
When I was asking to be mentored, I had a mental picture of what I expected from the mentorship relationship. Still, I do not remember communicating very well. So, there were my expectations Vs. What my then mentor thought was good mentorship & what I needed.
Fast-forward to when one of the new junior technicians asked me to be his mentor. To be honest, I did not know where to even start with mentoring. Mainly because I did not understand what the mentee wanted to achieve.
I think in both situations, I lacked a "blueprint" on how to be the best mentee and mentor. I believe that in both cases, I did not get the most out of the mentorship relationship as a mentee. I think I did not provide the best experience to the mentee.
Let me start with the mentee - How can a mentee ensure that they get the best out of the mentorship relationship?
1. Define what you want to achieve ("the goal" or "end-point")
The mistake I made was not being specific in what I wanted to achieve from the mentorship relationship. Did I need guidance in navigating the company politics? Did I need advice in deciding my career path? Did I need guidance in better managing my finances?
I found at the end that the mentor I choose was actually not the right mentor at the time. I wanted to get guidance in navigating the company politics and accessing opportunities. Still, I asked a person who was not interested in that aspect. So, he ended up mentoring me towards a different path.
My other mistake was not communicating my expectations with the mentor. I got frustrated and found the mentorship relationship was not worthwhile. I started getting guidance on things that are not related to why I asked him to be my mentor.
2. Choose multiple mentors that will help with specific aspects
This goes back to point number 1 - mentors are not built the same, and they may not be able to guide you on all aspects.
I found that it is better to define your life goals and start identifying mentors who are good with specific aspects. For example, I had a mentor who was great at guiding me on family mentors but was terrible at building wealth. I ended up achieving my family objectives, but my Net Asset Value (NAV) was in the red!
Having multiple mentors will also help you gain different prospects in life. You will then be able to make up your own mind after seeing and trying these different prospects.
3. Do your research and ask the right questions
When I was a mentee, I wanted to be spoon-fed. I wanted the mentor to do the research and draw up the blueprint for my success. I learned very fast that this was not the right approach (i.e., my NAV debacle).
I found that it is essential to do some research and ask the right questions. For example, instead of asking, "how do I register to become a professional engineer," instead ask, "where do I get information about registering to become a professional engineer."
Notice the difference? The schedule of many mentors is jam-packed. I prefer getting specific questions rather than general questions.
I think to ask, "I looked at the professional engineer registration process and requirements. It says I must do a design report that covers X, Y & Z. What sort of work or projects can help me achieve X, Y, & Z."
You need to use your mentors to get guidance to more specific and important aspects of your overall goal and not advice on the overall goal in general.
4. Don't ask the question "can you be my mentor"... it can get awkward quickly
I found that it is better to:
set your goal,
identify the right mentors,
list your questions, and
just ask the mentor without going through the trouble of asking them to be your mentor.
The best mentorship relationships I had did not start with me asking, "can you be my mentor." I just identified the person and asked what I wanted. And at the end of the day, I will say Mr. X mentored me.
I don't think to ask, "can you be my mentor" legitimises a mentorship relationship. Setting your goals and just asking for guidance does.
What are your thoughts?