How to get the most from mentoring

The right mentor can provide valuable advice and experience based tips that can help a mentee reach heights that would have been impossible alone. However mentorship requires investment of time and energy from both the mentees and mentors; so what you get is only as valuable as what you put in.

To help our mentees attending on the night and any community members looking to make the most of the mentoring experience they embark on, we’ve put together some of DevelopHer’s top tips for a great mentoring session.

1. Be prepared and come asking the right questions

Actively shape the conversations to your potential mentor on the outcomes you want to achieve.

Too often, mentees know they want a mentorship but don’t know what they want out of it. During a speed mentoring, you’re limited on time – so you need to figure out what to focus on before the event or session. You’ll also build a more gratifying relationship with the mentor, when you’re thoughtfully prepared for advice.

Before you come to your mentoring session, do some prep work and come up with 5 guiding questions, based on what you want to accomplish to ask your mentor.

In order to focus on what types of questions consider the following before the session:

  • Consider what your short-term & long-term goals are to discuss with your mentor
  • Figure out what successful outcomes of mentoring will look like for you
  • Figure out the top 2-3 things you want to be able to address during the session
  • What are the challenges you are facing in your role? What stops you from doing this?
  • Are you considering a career transition – what do you think are the pros and cons?
  • What are the options/choices have you been thinking of?

One you know the outcomes you want to achieve from your session, figure out how you want to frame the questions based on what you want to achieve.

Below are example areas of how you could frame your conversation:

  • Stories – Consider if you want to ask your mentor a story from his or her career that will help you with your career.
    E.g. How did you land a role?
    Can you tell me when you have a difficult boss, how did you handle it?
    What’s the most important leadership lessons you’ve learnt & how is it valuable?

  • Situational  – Identify a challenging situation and share it with your mentor. Ask your mentor to act as a sounding board
    E.g. What advice can you offer on how I approach entering a leadership role? What should I consider if i’ve never had experience on leading a team?
    When trying to gain buy-in to implement a new program, what tactics have worked for you?

  • Skill-building – identify a skill you currently want to develop, and ask your mentor for advice or resources.
    E.g. How do you approach risk-taking?
    How can i become a more assertive negotiator?

2. Be curious and open to who you’re being mentored by.

The best mentors are the ones who can fill gaps in your skillset. You don’t have to seek a mentor who’s your clone.

During the Speed Mentoring, you’ll have access to approach directly to different types of mentors from different backgrounds / industries. And whilst mentors are a great way to help make your strengths even stronger, it’s also valuable to have someone who can give advice in areas where you’re struggling.

Consider speaking and approaching mentors that may also have different roles or background to you. These mentors can give valuable insight into a skill or situation that you may not have considered, plus may have also gone through similar experiences but in a different context. Each mentor may provide a different perspective – that can give you new ways of thinking.

3. You don’t always have to follow a mentor’s advice – but listen to it and evaluate it.

The role of a mentor is there to help you reflect, not to give you the answers.

Mentors can provide advice, perspective and make you think differently – but they will not make decisions for you. In this speed mentoring, carefully listen and considered the perspective, personal experiences or tips your mentors give you, then make sure you take the time to evaluate how you approach the situation yourself and if you think it’s appropriate to apply the advice. Constructive criticism may not always be easy to take in – know that you are learning, try to respect your mentor’s opinions and consider everything they say carefully.

Remember to bring a pen and notepad to take notes down. As speed mentoring sessions are short, write the advice down and come back to it later when you have the time to consider or evaluate the advice given to you.

4. Be grateful and keep in touch

Mentors are taking the time to help you under the goodness of their hearts.

Mentors don’t owe you anything, but they are taking the time, energy and investment to help others. It’s important to be grateful for the advice they give, and especially after you’ve found success.

Whilst DevelopHer can help provide you the opportunity for connections, you as a mentee are ultimately responsible for ensuring you keep the relationship going if you want to. Not all mentors during a speed mentoring session will have the time  to mentor you going forward, but some may certainly be open to it.

If you feel you found an authentic connection with a mentor you meet, ensure you follow up:

  1. Bring your business cards
  2. Ask for their business cards
  3. Add them on LinkedIn
  4. Follow up with a thank you email or note – sharing the key learnings & summarise the key actions you’re going to take
  5. If they’re available and willing, try and ask for a follow up session
  6. Or if the tips/advice they shared with you, worked for you. Don’t be afraid to send a follow up email thanking them and how you’ve found success.

See the list of our 2019 Speed Mentoring Mentors here.

Written by Laura Chung, DevelopHer Co-Founder

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