My Future

How To Find (And Get The Most Out Of) A Great Mentor

We spoke to a mentor and a mentee about how to do it.

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We all know that there are many benefits to having a mentor. You gain insight into their career field, as well as receive advice and feedback on whether you’re on the right track to hitting your life goals.

This semester, I’ve been paired up with a mentor, Simon, through university. I decided to ask him and another mentee in the program, Hans, about their experiences and see if they had any tips to share.

#1 Keep An Open Mind

One of the most important things about finding a mentor is being open to their unique careers and experiences. This means they don’t have to be working in your chosen field to give helpful career guidance.

In Hans’ perspective, being paired up with a financial consultant as an aspiring civil engineer was a great opportunity to “meet a great guy with a wealth of knowledge”. He said his mentor, Hugh, “used his networks to get me in contact with currently practising civil engineers who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

My mentor Simon also pointed out that another benefit of your mentor coming from a different career field is that they could bring you fresh perspectives and insights.

“It’s easy to become fixated on a profession or ideal job while studying,” he says, “but the world is a big place and there are lots of opportunities that might not be apparent at this stage. The key is to focus on what a mentor can offer, rather than what differences there might be.”

#2 Finding A Mentor

Thankfully, finding a mentor isn’t too difficult as a university student. All I had to do was attend a compulsory information session at uni and fill in a profile about who I was and why I wanted a mentor.

“Don’t be afraid to approach someone, just be respectful and open about what you are hoping to achieve.”

If there’s someone specific you want to approach outside of uni, Simon suggests that your best bet is to do your homework before approaching them.

“If you can show some understanding of their work, their background and how you can see their advice being helpful to you, that’s a good place to start,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to approach someone, just be respectful and open about what you are hoping to achieve.”

#3 Meeting Up With Your Mentor

So now you have a mentor, how does it actually work? How often should you meet and where? Who grabs the bill?

The answer to all these questions really depends on the individuals involved, everything can be resolved with an open and honest discussion!

In Hans’ case, he met up with Hugh approximately once every three weeks at Hugh’s workplace. They communicated over the phone, text and email depending on the urgency of the topic and level of follow up required.

Simon and I on the other hand emailed back and forth and explored the cafes around Melbourne CBD once every month or so.

#4 Maximising The Value Of A Mentorship

When you make first contact with your mentor, it’s crucial to tell them a little bit more about who you are, share your reasons for pursing a mentoring relationship and discuss what you hope to achieve. This will help you get some structure for the progression of the relationship, receive relevant advice and have get measurable results.

Another tip both Hans and Simon share is that you should never hold anything back out of embarrassment.

Simon believes that “asking the basic, seemingly dumb questions will help you the most.”

“asking the basic, seemingly dumb questions will help you the most.”

That being said, a mentoring relationship should be reciprocal and Hans thinks that the best way to help your mentors get the most out of the relationship is to make the effort to show them who you are as an individual,

“Having them see what you put your time into lets them see what sort of person you are,” he says. “So there can be a deeper connection than a meeting every few weeks to talk about your CV and Linkedin.”

If a mentoring relationship sounds like something you’d be interested in, I definitely recommend you put yourself out there and give it a try!

(Lead image: Parks and Recreation/NBC)