Getting the Most Out of Mentorship
I view mentorship as “the gift that keeps on giving.” A mentor’s gift is one of time and encouragement. And speaking as a mentor many times over, I can say that nothing brings me more satisfaction than seeing individuals reach their goals, mature in really rewarding ways, and gain more self-confidence along the way. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I helped launch Empower LevelUp, one of the two formal mentorship programs that now exist at Coupa.
Mentees, in turn, offer their mentors a way to learn more about themselves and experience the joy that comes with helping someone else grow and succeed. But these gifts don’t just happen because two people have embarked on a mentoring journey. Getting the most out of peer mentorship requires a lot of time and energy, especially on the mentee’s part. Below are some insights I’ve gained throughout my career on how to get the most out of your mentorship program.
Adopt the Right Mindset
As a mentee, you alone are responsible for your success. Mentors guide and challenge you, yet you’re the one investing the time and effort to take a close look at yourself, commit to change, and step into new territory. It’s hard work, but you own the rewards, too.
My mentor literally changed my life by giving me an opportunity I might not have otherwise had because she saw something in me that I had all but given up on. She then mentored and coached me to be successful. That’s not to say that I didn’t work hard — because I did. I had always worked hard. The difference was that now I was able to truly grow professionally and personally because the door had been opened. And the path, while not mapped out, was in front of me.
Look in the Right Places for a Mentor
Mentors are all around us. They’re not always formal relationships. Think parents, friends, significant others, and colleagues. The most valuable asset of a mentor is their willingness to provide a sounding board or have experience in something that we don’t. A safe space is also a critical component of any mentoring relationship. These conversations must be confidential unless something harmful is going on. It’s not the job of the mentor to mediate events that are happening with the mentee.
I regularly get calls from individuals asking for some advice on a matter. There are a few other individuals that I talk to regularly as well. I take advice from a myriad of folks, including my best friend who is my biggest supporter.
If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that offers a formal mentorship program, take advantage of this opportunity. But don’t be discouraged if this isn’t available to you. Tap into the resources around you and start there. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that most everyone you ask will be delighted to help you.
Deploy the Right Tools
As a mentor, I’ve found two tools in particular to be extremely useful for mentees. The first one is the SWOT analysis and is familiar to anyone in business. Completed by mentees, this chart forms the foundation of a mentoring relationship. Both the SWOT analysis and SMART criteria list help mentees hold themselves accountable during the mentoring period and beyond.
Tool #1: SWOT Analysis
“What am I innately good at? What motivates and drives me?”
“What do I find challenging despite my best efforts? What are the things that don’t interest me but I can’t avoid entirely?”
“What can I do to expand my marketable skills? What can I realistically achieve at this stage in my life?”
“What are my ‘fatal flaws’ — the things that, if left unchanged, could block my path or seriously limit my growth?”
Tool #2: Setting SMART Goals
In order to focus, recognize progress and achieve goals, mentees have to know what they want to accomplish. This is where SMART criteria come in. You’ve most likely seen this list before, and it’s just as relevant to mentorship as anywhere else.
Is the goal:
- Specific — What do you want to achieve and why is it important to you?
- Measurable — What will be your barometer to recognize when you’ve achieved your goal?
- Attainable — Is this goal something I can realistically achieve?
- Relevant — Does this goal align with my personal or professional (or both) values and long-term objectives?
- Time Bound — When will I achieve this goal?
Also ask yourself why this goal matters. What happens if you don’t achieve it? What tasks do you need to complete to achieve that goal?
Grow the Right Community
Networking is easy, but the networking that connects you to people who will encourage you and stretch you requires a bit more thought. Who can help you, and where are they? And how do they become aware of you?
Events run by Coupa Empower are an excellent place to start.