At nearly every point in our career, we simultaneously hold the role of mentor and mentee. Much has been written about how to be a good mentor; however, less is found about how to be a good mentee. Awards are given to great mentors, but when was the last time you witnessed someone receive a “Mentee Of The Year” award? So, how well are you performing in your role as mentee?
To aid your self-assessment of your performance as a mentee, consider:
1. Why do mentors mentor?
2. What do you as a mentee expect to get out of a mentorship?
3. What does your mentor expect from you as a mentee?
4. What attitude should you hold as a mentee?
5. How can you assess the effectiveness of your mentorship relationship?
- Why do mentors mentor? What can a mentor gain from mentoring? Mentors can gain power and identity, as well as grow their business.
- The most powerful individuals have many people who help them and whom they help. Your mentor may need you to be successful to help them accomplish their ambitions.
- A successful mentor will likely be known, not only for their own achievements, but also for the achievements of the mentees who follow the mentor.
- Mentoring can help a mentor do more business. As a mentee develops in their career, the mentee can better support a mentor’s growing business.
- Successful mentoring can increase a mentor’s ability to make new offers. For example, one mentee was helped by his mentor to develop a niche patent practice in the firearms industry. Now, that mentor can make offers to do IP work to a whole new industry.
- Mentoring raises the tide. As the amount of business at a law firm grows, due to the mentee’s successful development in their career, the rising tide helps everyone at the firm make more money. The growth helps create room for more partners, more associates, and more leadership roles. So the mentoring can be seen as altruistically selfish/selfishly altruistic.
- Ask yourself, why do you mentor?
- What does a mentee hope to gain/learn from the mentoring?
- Guidance on how to develop business—active networking, how to pitch a client.
- Help on focusing efforts to achieve certain goals.
- Steering the mentee into new roles directed to the mentee’s ambitions.
- Motivation and encouragement.
- (Insert your ambitions here).
- What does a mentor expect from a mentee?
- A mentor expects their advice to be followed by the mentee. Ignoring the mentor’s advice is disrespectful.
- A mentor expects the mentee to be successful. When a mentee fails, it reflects negatively on the mentor. A mentor needs you to succeed.
- Mentors may expect mentees to eventually bring in business for others in the group.
- Mentors may expect you to support them in their roles.
- What attitude should I hold as a mentee?
- Consider for a moment if your attitude as a mentee has been what it should be. Do you recognize how essential mentoring is to your career? Mentors help expand your vision, help you see new possibilities for action, help increase your knowledge and skills. A mentor helps you couple to new language, practices, and narratives that may otherwise be foreign to you. They can help you get your head on straight. Proper attitudes would include attitudes of respect for the mentor, recognition of the value of mentoring, and gratitude for mentoring. Far too often, I have seen mentees take their mentor for granted.
- Recognizing that individuals each have different moods or attitudes that “work” for them, it is important to have an attitude that both “works” for the mentee and meets the employer’s and mentor’s perceptions and expectations of the mentee’s attitude towards the mentor-mentee relationship. Watch out for attitudes that are likely to cause you, as a mentee, to discount your mentor’s advice and fail to take effective action. Make adjustments to your attitude as needed.
- How can I assess the progress/effectiveness of the mentorship relationship.
- It may help to think about mentoring effectiveness in terms of whether you are getting a return on your investment (ROI).
- In many environments, mentoring is provided without a charge for the service. But some professionals pay handsomely to receive valuable mentoring. In such situations, it may be likely that more thought is put into what both parties expect to happen in the mentoring relationship. At a minimum, both parties would likely be thinking about effectiveness each time a payment is made. So, pretend you were paying for the mentoring. Is the mentoring bearing fruit at a rate that will enable you to achieve your ambitions? Is it worth the time and effort you are putting in?
- Be aware of signs that something isn’t working in a mentoring relationship.
- One sign is if you are not doing what you talked with your mentor about doing. It’s like having a gym membership but not going to the gym. Eventually, it dawns on you that the membership is not valuable if you aren’t using it. Similarly, mentoring is not likely to be valuable if you aren’t putting in the mentoring reps or following the mentor’s advice.
- As your situation changes, it may be time to change to a new mentor.
- Athletes may change trainers as they reach the next level. This can be appropriate for mentors and mentees as well.
- Consider also your mentor’s ROI. Your mentor could have been mentoring someone else, spending time with family, or making money doing billable work. Instead, your mentor spent that time mentoring you. Do you assess that it was worth it to the mentor?
Imagine what might happen if you had a clear understanding of why your mentor is mentoring you, what your mentor expects of you, and what you are looking for from the mentoring relationship. Give this some thought, have a great discussion with your mentor, and happy mentoring. I hope you win the mentee of the year award.
About the Author
John Platt is a partner at Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix. He can be reached at 602.382.6367 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Snell & Wilmer on Twitter @SWLawNews.