Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Or like you’re not really sure what you’re doing in your life? Do you have questions about how to manage your career, work-life balance, build a business, and create the life you want?
You’re not alone.
And you don’t have to go at it alone.
The truth is, no-one does it alone. One of the things I’ve learned is that each of us needs a team to be successful. We need a support system – a board of directors for our lives, so to speak. The best support system for each of us might be different (and will likely change through our life) but often they include friends (all different kinds!), colleagues, coaches, mentors, bosses, and assistants.
Mentors can be an essential piece of your success support system. In honor of January being Mentorship Month, I’ve put together this 3-part series called Get-A-Mentor to answer all your biggest questions about mentorship.
This is Part 3 of 3. Let’s review what I’ve shared so far.
1. Why you would want a mentor (check out Part 1 here).
2. How to connect with a mentor: what to do before you get one, where to look and how to ask someone to be your mentor (you can find that here!)
3. What’s essential for mentorship success: How to structure your relationship, make the most of having a mentorand other tips and FAQ to rock it with your mentor. (Keep reading!)
If you’ve been following along (and read Part 1 and Part 2), you’ve learned why you might want a mentor and when a mentor can be helpful in your life. You also now know what to do before you get a mentor, where to look for one and how to ask someone to be your mentor.
So… let’s continue. You’ve found “the one”. You’ve popped the question.
“They said yes!!!”
You want the relationship to be successful. Your mentor will also want you to be successful and to support you as best as possible.
Now, that you’ve agreed to work together, there’s a few keys to mentorship success.
- Have a discussion about expectations. What do you specifically want from your mentor? How can they best support you? Do you like encouragement or do you really need to hear the hard-truths and be pushed?
- Find out what your mentor is looking for in you. What do you bring to the table that they appreciate? Why do they want a mentee? What do they expect to make the relationship successful?
- Tell them about you. Let them know a little about your experience, hopes and dreams. Share your strengths and weaknesses (and let them know how you want them to help you with these).
- Share your goals specific to your time together or goals you’re currently working on.
- Decide on a meeting structure and frequency that works for you. I’ve had mentors I meet with monthly, and others less regularly. Have an idea of how long you will work together for (6 months? 1 year?). Discuss location and the use of technology too. Skype, Zoom, and Facetime have made everyone in the world accessible – take advantage! And find out if it’s ok to email and have the occasional emergency “help me” call in-between sessions.
Once you’ve established how you will work together and be successful, go in with the intention of learning everything you can from him/her as a person and the rest will take care of itself.
Sometimes you end up with terrible mentors you will be grateful you don’t work forand learn heaps about what not to do. Ever. Other times, you build a connection that’s deep and that will last far beyond any one job they might have been able to help you get.
One of my best mentors came about very organically and we met continuously for over a year. Two years later, when there was an opening in his team, I applied for it. I didn’t even tell him I’d applied because I submitted my resume to a manager who reported to him.
I sent him a message after I got my job in his group, so excited to share my news that I’d be working on his team. It turns out, he already knew (of course he did - how naive was I?). He cared about me, knew I would do great work and helped without me even asking.
I’ve since left the company and started my business but we still stay in touch. To this day, he continues to give me great advice at important junctions in my life. Even if I hadn’t gotten the job in his group, the advice and guidance he’s given has absolutely changed the course of my life. I can confidently say, I would not be where I am today without his guidance. He helped me tap into my personal career journeyand understand what it needed to be. And this knowledge and encouragement has been infinitely more valuable than any job could have been.
Now, for the most important part: how do you squeeze every ounce of value out of your mentoring relationship?
- Show up prepared. Have an agenda and questions prepared. If they prefer, send the agenda ahead of time.
- Do the work. Do what you committed to doing.
- Take the lead. Do everything you can to make their role easy.
- Schedule the meetings. Make reservations if you’re meeting at a restaurant. Put it in their calendar. Be organized.
- Let your mentor help you. They're doing this because they want to make a difference. Ask for the help and advice you want.
- Know your value. Mentoring is not a one-sided relationship. All my mentors have said they get as much as they give. Think about what you have to bring – energy, interest, enthusiasm and ambition – and allow that to shine.
- Show appreciation. A simple thanks, a card, a note, or a small gift is a lovely way to let them know they’ve made a difference.
For the extra ambitious, you might be wondering if you can have more than one mentor. Or if you can be a mentor AND a mentee.
If you can be an awesome mentee/mentor for both, hell yes. It’s worthwhile to note that often, mentors will have 2 or more mentees (sometimes one within their department/company, and someone external).
To have two mentors, make sure you have enough time to take their advice, make changes and stay engaged. You want to be an awesome mentee.
If you become a mentor, come to your relationship with your mentee with the same commitment you do your mentor.
A question I get asked is how a mentor is different from a coach. Short answer: a mentor is a not a substitute for a coach. Complimentary, yes. But not a substitute. Here’s what I mean:
- Coaching is a very specific skill (I’ve been trained by CTI, the world’s largest coaching school to be a professional coach).
- When you’re paying for coaching, your coach has a responsibility to you. Not so with your mentor. If life or work gets busy for your mentor, they don’t owe you anything. Weeks and months could go by without hearing from your mentor.
- Coaching is more structured. Often, mentoring happens when the mentee has a need and the mentor has capacity. Coaching is a commitment to connect several times a month, with specific actions, homework and accountability built in.
- Coaching is whole-life focused. Mentorship, depending on the relationship, might be focused solely on your career or business. It could be even more specific such as your career within a certain profession or company. Coaching recognizes you’re a person outside of work – and ensures your actions and decisions reflect this.
- The mentor is the expert in mentorship. The client is the expert in coaching. Coaching gets you to explore what you know about yourself and calls you forth to create the life you want. It assumes you have the skills, knowledge and resources to take action. (One of those resources you have could be a mentor for additional information and advice).
- You choose a mentor based on how well that person’s life experience relates to what you want to achieve. You choose a coach based on their ability to bring out the best in you and drive you to achieve more. Your coach helps you see the bigger picture, make better decisions and keeps you focused on achieving your goals.
Friends, colleagues, bosses, assistants, mentors and coaches each play a unique role in supporting you through your career, and life. And what you need will change and evolve as you do.
Only you can decide what you need to create a career and life you love in 2017.
Whether you decide you want a mentor, a coach, or both in 2017, I truly hope this 3-part Get-A-Mentor mini-series answers your questions and sets up you for your best year yet.
A mentoring relationship is special and unique.
A coaching relationship is special and unique.
They are both gifts and when you’re ready to receive, go find and get the best support for you.
PS. Mentors are amazing and have changed my life. The coaches I’ve had have also changed my life. Remember, coaching is a very specific skill that most mentors won’t be able to offer. And when you’re paying for coaching, your coach has a responsibility to you.
Coaching is a structured commitment to meet several times a month, with specific actions, homework and accountability. (Of course, I love sprinkling my coaching in with support, enthusiasm, inspiration and some serious cheerleading!).
I have two spots open for the month of February for one-on-one coaching. A spot is yours if you are looking for individual, customized, whole-life focused support to make your goals and dreams come true in 2017.
Get in touch for a complimentary discovery session and let’s discovery what’s possible if we work together.
Commit to yourself.
Commit to your whole life.
Commit to staying focused and achieving your dreams.