How to build long-lasting mentor relationships
When thinking about mentorship, the first step is understanding the value of a mentor and how they can help you in your life. If you don’t have someone to talk to about your career, you will be disappointed with the results that you get. Mentors help to steer us in the right direction and remind us of our goals. Plus, they can motivate us to achieve more than we thought possible. There are many reasons that you might need a mentor:
- You are unhappy with your job or the ambiguity of freelance work.
- You are frustrated with your career and need help getting started in a new field.
- You are not sure which direction you want to take your career.
The list goes on. In your professional environment, you will likely find many people who could be mentors. But it is important to go about finding one the right ones and then, once the relationship is established, stay in touch.
When selecting people to mentor you, identify people you respect and are approachable. This is of particular importance, because you will want to develop a cadence of contact with these people over time. This means that they make themselves available for calls, meetings, coffees, or emails.
When you find someone you would like to be your mentor, it is important to approach the relationship in a respectful way. To make sure that you don’t make a fool of yourself, you need to understand the ground rules for mentorship and what to expect over time.
Mutual Respect: Using a Relationship to Build Ties Together
As mentioned above, mentorship is a mutual relationship. Both the mentor and mentee have a responsibility to the other. You, as the person seeking advice and guidance, will want to carve out time to learn from your mentor. Here are simple steps to do so:
- Both the mentor and mentee need to help each other become better professionals. Set up a monthly call or time to meet for coffee (if local) to discuss topics that matter to both parties.
- Mentees need to treat mentors with respect. Send a calendar invite ahead of time with an agenda. This ensures that you are using your time together in the most impactful way possible.
- Mentors need to be honest and open with mentees about their limits. If your mentor doesn’t have time to meet in person, ensure you can get on a virtual call with them. Facetime does add up and can deepen the relationship.
To the extent that you have a network of mentors, you are in a stronger position to succeed than someone who does not. Especially in today’s highly competitive environment, people who have mentors tend to be more successful than those who don’t.
Here are some tips for taking your connectedness to your mentor to the next level:
1. Be thoughtful. Be intentional. Be clear about your intentions.
• Start with the people closest to you. Your parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles are likely to be willing and able to help you navigate the professional world, even if you don’t see them often.
• Look for people who are farther away. In college, you may have had a personal relationship with a professor, department chair, staff member in the career center, or faculty member in your area of interest.
• Make a list of people who are supportive of you and your goals, and make a concerted effort to build closer relationships with those people.
2. Be proactive. Make the first move.
• If you are comfortable doing so, ask people you know to meet with you for coffee on a regular basis. Some people will say yes. If they say no, you can ask whether you could get together for coffee on a one-time basis.
• If you don’t know someone well enough to ask for a regular meeting, ask about a one-time meeting for advice on a specific topic.
Conclusion: Staying in Touch is Just the Start
If you want to build a relationship with a mentor, the best way to do it is to start by acknowledging the value they bring to your life. Then, express your appreciation for their willingness to serve as a mentor. The mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street. The more you give and the more you invest in the relationship, the more you will get in the end. When you work without a formal boss, as freelancers do, finding mentors can be even more valuable, as it enables you to have a second set of eyes on your decisions, behavior, and professional journey.