Working towards your career objectives and goals requires making the most of every opportunity to gain knowledge and advice. As such, having a mentor can be an extremely valuable asset for your professional development.
Whether you are a recent graduate, a mid-career professional, or an executive navigating change, mentorship can help keep you on track. However, simply meeting with your mentor regularly is not enough to make the most of this relationship.
With that in mind, here are some of the best practices to implement before, during, and after mentorship meetings to make sure that you're building a productive relationship.
A mentorship meeting is when a mentor and a mentee spend time together to share goals and challenges on career development, gain insights and learn from each other, and build a meaningful relationship within the workplace.
The meeting can be in-person, over Zoom or even a phone call. It should be scheduled in advance, structured for productivity, and conducted regularly, which should be outlined in a mentoring plan.
While it’s usually the mentee's responsibility to create the meeting agenda and identify what they hope to accomplish, the mentor’s responsibilities include helping them formulate goals and holding them accountable for achieving them.
In short, both parties should be equally invested and committed to making the mentorship relationship work.
Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, there are several benefits to having regular mentorship meetings.
From the perspective of the mentee, these meetings provide an opportunity to:
Meanwhile, aside from the personal satisfaction that comes with helping someone else grow and develop in their career, mentors can also:
For a mentorship meeting to truly be effective, both the mentor and the mentee should clearly understand their objectives and come prepared with questions, insights, or ideas to share.
When preparing for a mentorship meeting, it’s important to keep the following best practices in mind:
A meeting agenda outlines the topics to be discussed during the session, which helps keep the conversation on track and the meeting focused. It allows both parties to identify specific topics and themes they would like to touch on while creating a structure for the discussion.
It can be helpful to review the agenda beforehand with your mentor to ensure that both of you are on the same page. Providing the meeting agenda in advance allows the mentor to be aware of the topics that will be covered and to prepare any thoughts, questions, or tips that can be beneficial to the mentee.
Like any relationship, mentorship meetings work best when there’s a foundation of trust and mutual respect. Therefore, it’s crucial to take the time to get to know your mentor as a person, rather than simply viewing them as a source of knowledge or advice.
Try to find common ground that can help you establish a connection with your mentor. This can be anything from sharing personal interests outside of work or discussing challenges you’ve both faced in your careers.
At the beginning of the mentor-mentee relationship, setting expectations is key to ensuring that both parties are on the same page. Having a discussion about the frequency and duration of sessions, topics that will be covered, preferred one-on-one meeting tools, communication style, level of commitment, and anything else that’s relevant to the mentorship.
It’s important to note that these expectations can change over time as the relationship progresses. For example, you may start out meeting once a month for an hour-long session but find that you need to meet more frequently as you’re working on a specific project or goal.
As the mentee, part of your responsibility is to come prepared with questions to ask your mentor. This gesture not only shows that you’re engaged in the relationship but also helps to direct the conversation and ensure that you’re getting the most out of each meeting.
When asking questions, avoid yes or no questions and try to ask open-ended questions that require a more detailed answer. For example, instead of asking “Did I do a good job on my presentation?” you could say “What areas do you think I need to work on for my next presentation?”
A best practice if you have many mentors relationships to manager is to track key information and learnings in a spreadsheet, or a CRM software.
From the very first mentorship meeting, coming into each session with an open mind helps to set the tone for a productive and positive relationship.
An open mind allows you to be receptive to feedback, constructive criticism, and different points of view, even if it’s not what you were expecting to hear. It also helps you to be flexible and adaptable, which is essential when working with a mentor.
By having a meeting agenda, you can make sure that each mentorship session is focused and productive. It should be created by the mentee prior to the meeting and shared with the mentor in advance.
The mentorship meeting agenda can be as simple as a list of bullet points outlining the topics to be discussed, as well as any specific questions that you would like your mentor’s opinion on. But for a more structured conversation, you could use a mentor meeting template that includes action items from the last session, progress tracking and reflection, and challenge and opportunity brainstorming.
Try Together Platform’s Free Mentoring Meeting Template
Mentors are there to help you grow and develop, which means they may point out areas where you can improve. Therefore, it’s important to be open to this type of feedback and use it as an opportunity to learn and develop.
For example, you could use your mentorship meeting to get specific feedback on a project. Say you are working on a design project and need to create a logo, you could ask for specific feedback from your mentor on how to improve your design. Your mentor could then suggest you use a logo maker to refine your design.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything your mentor says. If you disagree with their assessment or don’t feel that their advice is right for you, have a calm and respectful discussion about why you see things differently.
Aside from setting a meeting agenda, it can also be helpful to maintain a running list of objectives or goals that you’d like to achieve with your mentor’s help. Many formal programs rely on structured mentor program guidelines to help pairs keep track of their goals. DOing so, ensures that you’re making progress toward them while also providing a reference point for discussion during your meeting.
To make it easier for both parties, break down your goals into smaller, more manageable milestones. This way, you can check in with your mentor to see how you’re progressing, identify any areas where you may need additional support, and receive feedback along the way.
Once the meeting is over, take the time to process what was discussed and identify the next action steps. Documenting your meetings can help with this, as it allows you to reference back to specific points that were made during the conversation.
In addition, sending updates on your progress towards your goals is a great way to keep your mentor in the loop while also showing your dedication to achieving them. Be sure to thank your mentor for their time and advice by giving a thank-you note after each meeting to show your appreciation and reinforce a positive relationship.
Mentorship meetings are a key part of any mentorship relationship and, if done right, can be extremely beneficial for the professional development of both parties.
From preparing a meeting agenda to following up after each meeting, there are several practices that can help you build a productive and meaningful relationship with your mentor and mentee.
Ryan Carruthers is the Content Marketing Manager at Together Software, a company that builds software to help enterprise companies run effective mentorship programs within their organizations.