Throughout my career, I have been very fortunate to have had a number of official and unofficial mentors. Mentoring is a valuable opportunity to accelerate your personal and professional career growth. Throughout my mentoring relationships, I have gained perspectives and insights that have helped me to develop strategies for my career. Mentors help you to challenge your perceptions, focus on behaviors, and identify learning opportunities from events and situations you are involved in. They also help you evaluate and identify business relationships that will help your career, flag those relationships that could negatively impact your career, and help you decide what you can do to improve them.
I have discovered three key strategies for maximizing mentoring relationships. First, enter each meeting with your mentor with a structured agenda. Take the time to outline what you want to discuss, why it is important, and what you want to get out of the meeting. The time that you have with your mentor is valuable, both for you and your mentor. Take the time to plan the outcomes you would like and the approach you will take to get to those outcomes.
Secondly, it is critical that you are open with your mentor, to use a common expression from the UK, warts and all. Holding back from your mentor will inhibit the process. The entire point of your mentoring relationship is to provide a safe forum in which to discuss ideas and topics that may be uncomfortable, or holding you back in your career. Your mentor can help you identify strategies and develop tactics that will help you overcome what is holding you back, but you must be open.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if the mentoring relationship is not working, then change it. You will never be able to fully leverage the value of that relationship if you do not feel comfortable with the person.
In summary, a mentoring relationship can support your short- medium- and long-term objectives if the foundation on which it is built is secure.