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How to be a great mentee: 10 practical tips

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Mentee attending a mentoring program

Mentoring programs are crucial for personal and professional growth as they provide mentees with guidance and support by matching them with experienced mentors.

Mentees can get the most out of their mentoring program experience by keeping in mind the following pointers.

1. Set a personal goal

A mentoring program is set up by a program manager with a specific intent and goal in mind. A mentee should assess their own personal goal and expectations from the program. For example, the overall goal of a women’s mentoring program would be to provide women mentees access to women role models. However, as a mentee, you can have your own sub-goal such as wanting to improve your business management skills or work-life balance and other such personal and professional goals. Ensure that you do not lose focus from the goal you have zeroed in for yourself during the course of the program.

2. Have a learning and listening attitude

Cultivating the right attitude can amplify the benefits of participating in a mentoring program. Be open to learning from your mentor and be curious about their experiences. Be present and listen attentively during touchpoint sessions. If your mentor is in a different location and all your meetings are virtual, try to keep the video on to have a better connection with your mentor. Take notes during information exchange sessions to ensure you don’t miss critical information that is shared by your mentor for your benefit.

3. Be prepared for meetings

A mentoring program usually has multiple touchpoints or meetings scheduled between the mentor and mentee. Each touchpoint has a purpose and outcome attached to it. An action plan is designed for each touchpoint meeting and is shared with both participants at the start of the program. Mentees should spend time on the program plan and come prepared for the session with the right questions for their mentor. Being prepared would ensure the session is productive and time is utilized wisely.

4. Follow-through on tasks assigned

During the course of the program, mentors observe and understand their mentees better and suggest ways they can improve their skills. They could suggest books, courses or short and simple tasks that the mentee could undertake to learn new ways and increase their capability in some aspects as identified by the mentor. A mentee who diligently completes the tasks assigned to them by their mentors stand to gain a lot from the program. Completing tasks on time is also a reflection of the mentee’s discipline and work ethic and can impact the mentor’s view of their mentee and the networking opportunities they provide to them.

5. Speak up if its not working out

A common misconception among mentees is that once a mentor is assigned to them, they cannot be reassigned to another mentor. It’s possible that a mentor and a mentee may not be the best fit due to various reasons. If there is a personality clash or if your mentor is not showing up or being attentive during the touchpoint meetings, you can take the matter up with the mentoring program manager. The program is created for your benefit and progress and is usually planned for a duration of several months. If you don’t feel comfortable or if you feel you are not gaining any insights, you must voice your concerns in time. You will be assigned another mentor who is a better fit for you.

6. Communicate effectively

Communication is a critical component of a successful mentoring relationship. It would be best to have clear and honest communication with your mentor from the get go. You should state your expectations clearly and politely communicate any gaps or misses. You can also share your preferred style of communication with your mentor. For example, if you prefer communicating over email instead of setting up meetings, you can let your mentor know. You should also be respectful of your mentor's preferences and find a middle ground that works for both.

7. Be proactive as a mentee

Do not rely on your mentor to take the initiative every time. They may have busy schedules and proactive communication from your end will bring their focus back on the mentoring program. Let them know when you need help. If you have queries that arise between two touchpoint meetings, you can reach out to them via email and ask for their input. They might not have time to schedule a meeting but might be able to respond quickly via email. While being proactive, it is important to remember not to be pushy and to respect each other’s personal and professional boundaries.

8. Be open to constructive feedback

Your mentor is there to guide and support you. They have good intentions and want to unleash your potential. Based on the time they spend with you, they might observe some traits or attributes that might need to be worked on. For example, if it is evident that you get visibly stressed about the small stuff or spend too much time in planning and strategizing rather than having a bias for action, they might share this feedback with you while offering practical advice on how to overcome your current mindset. A mentee who values and works on the feedback shared by their mentor is more likely to be more successful than a mentee who is rigid and closed to any feedback.

9. Share candid feedback about the program

The mentoring program manager is relying on the participants to provide candid feedback about the program design and process. A good mentoring program that is enabled using a comprehensive mentoring software has built-in feedback mechanisms after every touchpoint meeting between the mentor and mentee. After every meeting, as a mentee, you should share feedback about what worked and what did not. For example, if the action items are not adding value to your program experience or if you feel the gap between two meetings is too long, you can share this feedback anonymously with the program manager. This information can be then used to improve the program design and create more value for future participants.

10. Make it a positive experience

A mentoring program experience should not be stressful. It should be an enjoyable and useful experience that builds your self-confidence as a mentee. Try to approach the process positively and do not treat it as a chore or additional responsibility at work. The right attitude towards the program, your equation with your mentor, the learning you get and feedback you receive will help you grow as a professional and open doors to new opportunities at the workplace.

Mentoring helps mentees in skill development, boosts confidence, provides guidance and supports career progression through the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Mentees should bring their best selves to the program, show up wholeheartedly and stay committed to the process from start to finish.

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