During our school days, we followed discipline and showed much respect to our teachers. Teachers want their students to gain more knowledge and dream of growing better than themselves. They are always proud to say, “That is my student!”

Once we are out of school, we start to forget how to respect someone who shares their knowledge, and more importantly, their time to help us grow.

A mentor is someone who enjoys sharing their experience, wisdom, and knowledge to help their mentee achieve their goals.

Who are our mentors

After schooling, we all find mentors in a variety of ways. We may be assigned a mentor (such as a supervisor or manager), or we may find someone who is doing great at their work and who we admire (a role model or expert). Sometimes, we may find mentors who are popular and whose style we want to emulate. And, we may even work with paid mentors, such as health advisors, financial advisors, or career coaches.

We can categorize these mentors into two types: formal mentors and informal mentors.

Informal mentor

Informal mentors are people we:

  • May not know in person.
  • Don’t meet regularly.
  • May never talk to (e.g., through forums, radio, or television).
  • Don’t get feedback from.
  • Don’t have to give commitments to.

There are not many rules to follow when having an informal mentor, except following their principles and advice, or (these days) following them on social media. We may also recommend other friends to follow them.

Formal mentor

Formal mentor is someone we

  • know and respect them well.
  • know about and agrees with expectations.
  • may have regularly scheduled sessions.
  • look for long term relationship.

Here are my learnings on how to be a great mentee while working with a formal mentor, so you can give them the same happiness our teachers had.

Ground rules for working with formal mentor:

To get the most out of your mentor’s time and to become a better mentee, follow these ground rules as much as you can:

  • Be prepared for your meetings. This means coming to meetings with questions, goals, and an agenda.
  • Do not miss meetings because you feel unprepared. If you are feeling unprepared, reach out to your mentor and reschedule the meeting.
  • Let your mentor know when you cannot meet. This gives them time to adjust their schedule and to make sure that they are available when you need them.
  • Follow up on tasks, even if they are hard. This shows that you are committed to your goals and that you are willing to put in the work.
  • Gracefully accept direction and criticism. This shows that you are open to learning and that you are willing to grow.
  • Be honest with yourself and your mentor. This means being honest about your strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
  • Pay for your own expenses. This shows that you are committed to the relationship and that you are willing to invest in yourself.
  • Use a mentoring journal. This will help you to track your progress and to reflect on your learning.
  • Pay them on time if it is a paid mentorship. This shows that you are respectful of their time and that you appreciate their help.

Optimize meetings and communication with mentor

Always remember that your mentor’s time is more valuable than yours. Here are a few tips to optimize your communication with your mentor so that they enjoy mentoring you.

  • Meeting etiquette to follow
    • Show up early.
    • DO NOT check your phone during meeting.
    • Be present.
    • Dress appropriately.
    • Be concise and stay on task.
    • Don’t talk over your mentor.
    • Food is not the focus.
    • Don’t let your eyes drift - Make sure your body language says you are there and you are into it.
    • Stay until the end of the meeting.
  • Active listening
    • Listen more than you talk.
    • Take notes effectively.
    • Summarize the main points of the conversation.
    • Summarize any action items that were discussed.

Never ever frustrate your mentor

You may have seen doctor office posters stating the following:

  • “I don’t understand why you’re paying me to give advice that you don’t follow.”
  • “If you believe your Google search is giving you better solutions to your health problems, why are you here?”

These posters may seem funny, but they can also be a sign of frustration when a mentee is not following the mentor’s advice. Don’t let your mentor have similar thoughts about you.

Closing comment

Be thankful for having a mentor and respect them as you would your teacher. They can help set the foundation for your growth. Show your respect and make them proud of you by following meeting etiquette and listening actively. Remember that it is hard to find a good mentor like your favorite teacher, but it is easy to miss one.