How to work with a mentor effectively to reach your goals
Before you ask someone to be your mentor, it is helpful to know what you would like to gain from the relationship. Are you hoping to build your network, learn a specific skill, explore and understand yourself better, or identify potential career opportunities? These are all ways a mentor can support you.
If there is a business owner in your neighborhood who you admire and want to learn from saying “I want to learn from you” is okay, but saying “I want to learn how to run a small business that sources their product locally. Can you help me understand which best classes to take or books to read?” will empower your mentor to help you more effectively. You could even ask for an opportunity to observe your mentor in the field!
Whenever you’re trying to reach a goal, getting curious about how to get there can help you establish a path forward that is authentic to you. Try researching opportunities, or the topic you want to learn about, then asking yourself, “how can my mentor increase my chances of getting this opportunity, or help me further my understanding?” Perhaps you’d like to ask your mentor for a letter of recommendation, to connect you with someone in their network, invite you to an event, or recommend a workshop for you to improve your skills and knowledge.
Regularly checking in with your mentor will help you develop a stronger relationship and help hold you accountable to taking steps to reach your goals. Often, a mentor is someone with more experience and already established in their career so their schedule may be tight. Be intentional about setting up regular meetings that are convenient for both of you. If in-person meetings don’t work, offer zoom meetings or phone calls. Your check-ins can be weekly, biweekly. During your check-in share life updates, your progress, and determine additional action items you’ll take before your next meeting.
Someone taking the time to invest in you and your dreams isn’t something you should take lightly. Show you respect your mentor and their time by aiming to be punctual, and always communicating if you’re going to be late or can’t make a scheduled check-in. Demonstrate your gratitude by expressing how your mentor’s support has helped you, giving meaningful gifts, thoughtful thank-you messages, or whatever feels most authentic to your and your relationship.