Like any relationship, the bond between mentor and mentee has to be worked at to prevent it from turning sour. Here are five ways to keep your mentor/mentee relationship as sweet and fresh as the day you met…
1. Build up a relationship
While you’re there to get as much business advice out of your relationship as you can, a mentor will always be more forthcoming if you take an interest in them as a person, rather than just as a machine to dispense advice. Make sure you ask them a little about their life, their partner, or their children. Similarly, one good turn deserves another, and a little reciprocation will never go amiss. If you think you have the skills to help them out, let them know – even if it’s just a magazine article you think they’d like to read, the smallest gestures will be appreciated.
2. Don’t ask to be spoon fed
Your mentor is there to help you out with his or her knowledge and experience. They are not there to run your business for you. If you have a problem, try to work it out on your own before turning to your mentor – and once you have, explain to them exactly what you’ve done and how you did it before asking for their advice. Your mentor will appreciate your dedication, and is likely to take you far more seriously.
3. Communication, communication, communication
Business is a time-consuming thing, and as a result, the mentor/mentee relationship is no longer as hands-on thing as it may once have been. While the wonders of modern technology means you can gain access to your mentor’s experience from anywhere in the world, it also means you can get your wires crossed from anywhere in the world – a sure-fire way for things to turn sour.
When you write your mentor an email, read it back to yourself, or get someone else to read it. Does everything make sense? Is there anything that could be misconstrued? Similarly, if your mentor’s reply seems curt, go back over your previous email – was there anything which could be confused?
4. Take their advice
Your mentor will inevitably dispense some advice that you don’t like – whether it’s because their suggestion will require sacrifices you would rather not make, or because it seems too hard. Of course, that is not to suggest that they are completely infallible, but there is potentially a considerable amount of experience and knowledge behind their suggestion. At the end of the day, you are there because you have asked for their help, so make sure you listen when they give it to you.
5. Try not to take up all their time
Like you, your mentor is likely to be a business person with very little time on their hands. In order to get the most out of your relationship, make sure you don’t make excessive demands of what little time they do have: make your emails short and to the point, keep your phone calls brief, and don’t waste their time with questions which you know you could resolve after five minutes on Google.
Finally, always thank your mentor for their time. As the old adage goes, good manners cost nothing, and it could mean your mentor will give you more time the next time you speak.