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Tips for Meeting with a Mentor

If you are interested in tips on how to find a mentor, you can find at least seventeen proven ideas on the Find a Mentor pages of Peer Resources.

The following tips are for persons who have already selected a mentor or who have been matched with a mentor. They are based on my personal experience both as a mentor and a partner and on research I have done on successful mentoring.

  • Prior to your first meeting with your mentor, write down at least three things you would like to achieve through mentoring. Rank the three items in order of importance to you. Also write down three things that concern you most about meeting with your mentor. Rank these three things in order of importance.

  • If not included in either of the lists created above, write down at least three attitudes or perspectives you will be able to provide during the mentoring sessions. If possible, write down three things about yourself that might get in the way of you being able to make the most of the mentoring opportunity.

  • If not included in your lists, write down at least three things you would like your mentor to provide.

  • Prepare a brief autobiography based on the above lists that you can share with your mentor when you first meet. Be sure to also include your own vision, mission or life goals.

  • It is likely that you selected your mentor or were matched with your mentor because of the mentor's resources. This typically means that you mentor has both considerable gifts and a tight time schedule. Dealing with time is a key aspect of the success of mentoring. Make sure you are clear about your needs.

  • Many mentoring partnerships rely on formal, written agreements. The ingredients of such a contract are typically negotiated, but usually include answers to the "who is going to do what and when" logistical questions. In many cases such agreements spell out the purpose of the mentoring and may even include a list of career goals and work activities expected to achieve those goals. Learn about your mentor's perspective about such agreements and discuss what ought to be included, if such an agreement is valued.

  • Be prepared to do some homework in order to demonstrate initiative, leadership and self-reliance. Explore alternative options for asking questions or gaining information other than just relying on your mentor. For example, if there is a policy manual, make sure you have read through it before asking your mentor about it. On the other hand, keep your mentor in the picture by letting the mentor know why you are asking a particular question after having explored other options.

  • The focus of most successful mentoring is mutual learning. Feel free to explore what you have to offer the mentor. A sense of humour and a sense of enjoyment of your time together are essential as well. If your needs are not being met, discuss this with your mentor. Terminating a mentoring relationship or switching to a different mentor are not signs of failure. Recognizing your changing needs and finding a respectful way to meet your learning goals are one of the keys to successful executive mentoring.

  • A perspective I have found useful for my mentoring relationships is based on the wisdom of Grey Owl:
    "You can count the seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the apples in a seed."
BookCover For an inexpensive booklet on to how to make the most out of your mentoring relationship, we recommend Ida Abbott's pamphlet, Working with a Mentor: 50 Practical Suggestions for Success.

This booklet includes ideas about how to acquire the advice, support and learning you need to optimize the benefits of your mentoring relationship. The author has extensive experience in workplace relations, employee retention and the creation of successful mentoring programs. Although she specializes in helping law firms establish mentoring programs, this booklet was written for a broader audience and can be applied to virtually all settings.

The booklet is available from The Associaton for Legal Career Professionals (NALP), 1666 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 325, Washington, DC 20009-1066; Tel: (202) 667-1666; Fax: (202) 265-6735.

For an additional book on mentoring programs by Ida Abbott, visit our Top Books on Mentoring web page. For a companion booklet on suggestions for mentors, visit our Mentor Tips page.

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