A few years back, during a professional development workshop, I was required to develop a formal mentoring relationship with a successful woman. I mustered up the courage to ask one of the businesswomen I most admired (and already had a good relationship with) to be my mentor. Her response was shocking! She said, “Of course! No one ever asks me to do things like this anymore!” And to this day, she remains one of my greatest cheerleaders with the most sage advice. All because I asked and was willing to work with her to create a structured mentoring relationship.
Today, I embarked on another structured mentoring relationship, this time set up through an organization I care deeply for and have gotten involved with. And again, I am pleasantly surprised at the already phenomenal reaction I’ve gotten from my mentor.
Why mentorship, you might ask? What does mentorship bring that simple networking might not? Well, here’s a few tips to developing a successful mentoring relationship:
- Make it structured. We all go through life with mentors. Friends, family members, colleagues, bosses, etc. But to have a successful mentoring relationship, it should be expressed and structured. Ensure the woman (or man) you’re asking to mentor you knows what the mentorship entails. How many times will you meet? Will the time period be finite? How often will you meet?
- Follow the platinum rule. We’ve all heard of the golden rule, but what about the platinum rule? Treat people how they want to be treated. This is paramount with your mentor. Ask how they want to be communicated with. Is email best or phone calls? Should you communicate with their assistant or directly with them? How often is permissible to call?
- Set the agenda. Don’t walk into a mentoring meeting the same way you might a networking meeting. Have an agenda. Have issues or questions you want to discuss during the meeting and make the agenda clear to your mentor. Preferably, let he or she know beforehand so they have time to formulate some thoughts on the topics you plan to discuss.
- Say thank you. The best thing any professional can do for another is help them get to the next level in their career – so don’t forget to thank your mentor whenever you see her. She’s helping you get ahead!
If you don’t have a formal mentoring relationship, I’d encourage you to develop one today – ask a woman (or man) you respect to be your mentor, set the structure and get started. Asking for it is often the scariest part!