I recently wrote about IvyExec as a potential way to a mentorship. But there are many other sources. From my own experience talking to IE Alumni, most of them are interested in mentoring or are already regularly meeting with a mentee. You may also want to think about leaders of your former company. Even if you are not coming back, some of them might be interested in mentoring you.
Mentoring is such a powerful tool for active career management. But it asks a lot from your side, the mentee, too. Below, I have tried to summarize some key points to be aware of. It is a collection of my personal learnings from various sources over the last couple of years and therefore by no means complete. However, it should give you a good impression of some of the challenges to be aware of and to actively address.
Attitude and Behaviour
First of all, notice that effective mentees:
- are proactive, take the initiative and show eagerness to learn
- place a high value on setting and accomplishing challenging goals
- accept personal responsibility and admit failures
- avoid getting trapped in self-promoting and trying to position themselves in front of the mentor
- take the time necessary and place importance on the mentoring
Preparation and the first meeting
Before your first meeting, it is important that you try to create as much self-awareness as you can, understand your situation. Ideally, you are able to formulate your vision and you know your current challenges. Lastly, it is of paramount importance that you are able to describe what you want to get out of the mentorship.
Running the risk of stating the obvious: the foundation of your fruitful relationship is trust! And this is what you want to start working on from the first meeting on. Think about how you can build trust and what it takes for you to trust your mentor. For that purpose, mentor and mentee often agree on a high level of confidentiality. Discuss openly what you are willing to share and who – if anybody – will get to know about the content of your relationship.
Another cornerstone to get started is to clarify mutual expectations and lay out the main topics to work on.
Finally, even though this might seem a bit overly structured or awkward, strongly recommend to regulate the key administrative topics. These include meeting frequency and duration, preferred format and location – and the agenda management that should be owned by you. If you want to maximize effectiveness, it is also a good idea to agree on how to monitor the mentoring process itself, i.e. how do you both determine whether you need to make any kind of adjustments?
How you manage your meetings and what you do is up to you. This in an example for how you could approach them:
- You come with a proposed agenda that you have already shared with your mentor earlier and you have concrete issues to discuss
- You start with the progress and an update from last time
- Throughout the meeting you drive the discussion in an open, honest and positive way
- Towards the end, you ask for feedback how the meeting was in the mentor’s opinion and you are prepared to answer the same
- At the end, always summarize the outcome of the meeting, agree on an action plan and on the next meeting
As mentioned above, this is merely some guidance. If you are interested to learn more about mentoring in general and prepare yourself for becoming a mentor yourself, have a look at a good book! Ana García, IE professor and expert in coaching recommends: Managers as Mentors, by Marshall Goldsmith and Chip Bell. Her colleague Teresa Recio who currently teaches an elective on coaching together with Ana mentions Coaching for Performance, a coaching classic by John Whitmore that includes skills recommended for mentoring.