Mentor-mentee relationships can be as complex as any other relationship.
While I believe mentoring is important, if we are to raise better generations of entrepreneurs, the effort of the mentor alone is not enough. In my mentoring journey, I have experienced both good and bad mentees and I know, like the good student, a good mentee in more likely to benefit from a mentoring relationship.
So how do you know if you will make a good mentee or how do you ensure you are one? Here is a checklist you may use
A good mentee understands their needs. From experience, I find that mentees who have defined their needs and goals tend to do better than those who are not clear about why they are seeking out mentoring relationships. It is easier to be committed to a goal you are clear about than to one that you are not clear about. Clarifying your mentoring needs also shows your mentor that you are serious about the goals you have set out for yourself. In a nutshell, know what you want and articulate your needs to your mentor (SMART goals).
Be someone who does their own side of the bargain. Because many serious mentors will not spoon feed you, it is your duty to take action and do your part of the bargain. What does this look like? Your mentor may assign you tasks, say to research about certain things, they may recommend that you reach out to certain people and so on. Make sure you do your due diligence so that at your next meeting, you do no return blanks. As a mentor, I begin to mark mentees who do not do their work as unserious and therefore, I’ll be hesitant to deploy my time and network resources on such people.
Receptive of corrections and feedback. As a mentee, it will serve you well to be open to feedback. As a mentor, I find that sometimes I have to give very critical feedback to my mentees. My role, after all, it to provide tailor-made industry advise to improve your outcomes. However, if as a mentee you are not open to very honest and sometimes critical feedback, then chances are you are not ready for that learning curve. Understand that, as a mentee, it is also important to ask questions, seek verifications and prompt discussions about issues where you may have differing opinions.
Honor your mentor’s time. As a mentor, I am driven by my passion to improve results for young entrepreneurs and to share my time, experiences and skills. What does this mean? I do this pro bono – I volunteer my time, skills, connections, reputation and any other necessary resource, to make the engagement a successful one. However, a mentee who does not respect me and my sacrifice is a red flag. What does respect mean? Showing up for our scheduled meetings in time, understanding when last minute changes have to happen on my side, do not cross boundaries and invade my personal space, except I let you in and finally do not act with entitlement.