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Fast-track your development: Getting the most out of mentoring

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As a mentee, your first challenge is to work with a suitable mentor; someone who you believe is the right person to help you succeed. But the work doesn’t stop there – mentoring is a two-way street and without mutual effort and communication, your development will be hampered. You really do get out what you put in.

Prepare and plan

“Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail” – this is a phrase we have all heard before, and it is never truer than for mentoring. Creating a plan, including goals to work towards, weaknesses to overcome and accomplishments you would like to achieve, will help guide your mentoring sessions and ensure you get the most out of each meeting with your mentor.

Set clear goals

Set both short and long-term goals, and be realistic about what you can achieve in each timeframe, but also challenge yourself. Work with your mentor to set these goals and always assess your progress as you go along. This means you can then track your progress and make sure you are heading in the right direction.

Be honest

From day one, it is important to be honest with your mentor. Discuss your strengths and weaknesses – your mentor will then be armed with sufficient knowledge to support your development.

Take an active role in your learning

Communication and collaboration are key. Your mentor should guide the sessions and use their experience to help you develop to the best of their ability, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and suggest topics and areas for discussion. It is also vital to consolidate your learning outside of these sessions and put advice into practice. Don’t take a back seat – challenge yourself.

Meet frequently

Meetings should take place on a weekly basis and you should ensure you allocate sufficient time for each meeting. Maximise the time you have with your mentor as this will help you to achieve something in each session. Be committed – regular sessions will ensure you do not become complacent and see steady progress.

Vary your activities

A range of activities will enable you to develop a range of new skills and challenge yourself to approach learning in a variety of ways, from suggested reading, reviews and written feedback, to job shadowing, role play and networking. Another useful exercise is to have your mentor observe you in action, for example giving a presentation at work or dealing with clients. This will give you the opportunity to receive invaluable real-time feedback.

Respect your mentor and listen

You cannot build a beneficial mentor-mentee relationship without respect. You may not always agree with what your mentor advises and suggests, but without respect, nothing will be achieved, and trust and communication will break down. Find a way of working that is right for the both of you. If it really isn’t working, your chosen mentor might not be the right person for you.

If both yourself as the mentee and your mentor focus on the goals, communicate and collaborate effectively, you should see significant progress.

However, be warned – relying on your mentor to push your development alone is naive and you’re unlikely to achieve all that you are capable of. Make it one of the avenues in progressing your career or business.

Debbie Sheldon is head of business at Work Avenue

Image: Shutterstock

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