Here are 5 things you can do to cultivate and grow the relationship you have with your mentor.
- Clearly agree upon the mentoring relationship - I know this sounds like it should be a given, however, nothing should be taken for granted. Before I started JRW Social Media, my former mentor took a chance on me. She let me establish a digital branding for her across multiple social media platforms and she allowed me to help grow her online presence. We celebrated our successes together and my skill set grew. Along the way, I grew to admire her civic courage and activism. Many celebrities shy away from politics because they fear alienating fans. Not her. As a result, I found myself gravitating toward non-profits and speaking out and writing more on social justice issues. Clearly, I was emulating my mentor by becoming a more engaged citizen and a better human being. Except there was a problem. She never saw herself as my mentor, nor did she want to fill that role for me. Ultimately, the one-directional mentoring relationship fell apart and took our working relationship with it.
- Establish clear communication boundaries - Is your mentor simply an adviser or is she/he also a friend? Discuss with your mentor the amount of time they are willing to devote to helping you grow. Also set boundaries for including off-topic issues as well as communication channels. Your mentor may be available for that pep-talk via Skype before a big interview or they might be more inclined to schedule meetings. And your mentor might not appreciate constant emails or text messages. Once you have agreed upon the boundaries, occasionally check in with each other and make sure your frequency and style of communication is still working for both parties.
- Respect your mentor's fallibility - You have chosen your mentor because you believe they have the skills and experience to help you grow. But don't forget that your mentor is human. Mentors won't always have the answers you need and they may even be wrong sometimes. Without an atmosphere of respect for your mentor's fallibility, he or she might feel undue pressure from you to always be right.
- Establish a mutually beneficial relationship with your mentor - Obviously, when you choose a mentor you gain access to their experience, wisdom and guidance. What can your mentor gain from you? In the best mentoring relationships, learning is a collaborative process. Find out what your mentor hopes to personally gain or learn from your relationship and make sure it's compatible with what you can offer in return.
- Express appreciation - Your mentor is investing time, energy and possibly even resources or emotion on you. Don't ever that that for granted. Being grateful is not enough if you forget to say 'thank you' and tell your mentor you appreciate him or her. Don't fall into the trap of only contacting your mentor when you need advice--share your successes with them, too. And never forget the power of a hand-written thank you note.