Three Things to Help You Prepare for the First Meeting with Your Mentor
I have been blessed to be on both sides of the mentee-mentor relationship.
Much of my own professional journey over the last 20 years has benefited from the guidance and encouragement of wise mentors and I’ve had the distinct privilege of mentoring graduate and under-graduate students, newcomer professionals, and youth in the LGBT2SQ community.
I’m sure every mentor would agree that you gain from the experience as much as you give, if not more. When you hold the space for others to discover their strengths and potential, you end up learning a lot about your own. As one of my mentors likesd to say: “We are always learning.”
I’ve found that preparation is key to getting the most out of the experience, especially as a mentee. If you’re meeting your mentor for the first time, here are three things to consider:
1. Define your goals, strengths and success
Your mentor is an active partner in helping you achieve your goals within the scope of your mentorship relationship. Reflect on these questions and share the answers with your mentor for feedback:
What do I want to gain from this experience? Identify 3-5 specific things you want to achieve during your time with your mentor. If goals don’t readily come to mind, try thinking in terms of needs – what needs will this experience address? It can be a need for a supportive and affirming space to explore a new career path, or a need for feedback and practice around job interviews.
What do I bring to this relationship? Approaching mentorship as a partnership and an exchange, consider your own unique strengths, gifts and experiences that will inform and enrich the time with your mentor. You have more to offer to your mentor than you may think.
How do I define success? Think about your personal indicators of a successful mentorship experience. These can be subjective and a matter of self-evaluation (e.g. on a scale of 1 to 10, how effective is this relationship in helping me reach my goals?). Or you can use more objective indicators such as establishing at least 3 new professional relationships through the mentor’s network connections or obtaining a reference.
2. Do preliminary research
Think of that first meeting as a form of informational interview. In a typical interview scenario, you would spend some time researching the company you’re interested in by perusing their website and relevant social platforms. A similar strategy should be applied to mentors as many seasoned professionals have a well-developed online presence.
Connect with your mentor on LinkedIn and explore the various sections of their page including past employment, volunteering and publications if available/applicable. This research can help generate meaningful questions for your mentor which will make for a richer conversation and career insights.
3. Set an expectation for accountability
Having a sense of a timeline can provide more structure to the mentorship relationship and help keep both parties accountable. Reviewing relevant milestones at the beginning sets the tone for accountability, as both of your time is valuable.
Some mentorship programs offer a more structured experience including periodic check-ins and a final evaluation while self-guided connections offer more flexibility, leaving it up to you to define a time limit that feels right. Whatever the case, make a note of the mid and end points of your relationship and use them to assess your progress and experience.
Here are some tips and strategies from Forbes and career contessa to help you get the most out of your mentorship experience:
Come To The Table, Ready: How To Approach Your First Mentor Meeting
5 Ways Successful People Prep for Meeting with Their Mentors