• Linda R. Taliaferro

How to Make the Most of a Mentorship (Even If You Don’t Have One Yet!)

Recently on Being Brown at Work Live, I had the honor of interviewing Vani Rao, the chief information officer of an industry leading privately-held financial group. This blog post shares some great wisdom from our conversation, but doesn’t even come close to getting all of the wisdom she dropped. Definitely check out the podcast for the full episode.

Mentorship is a powerful way to grow as a professional, but it can be intimidating if you’ve never had one before. How do you ask someone to mentor you? What can you do to make the most of your time — and theirs? Today, we’re going to talk about all of that with my top tips for maximizing your mentorships.

How do you even get a mentor?

This is the scary bit, right? Taking the plunge and asking them to give you one-on-one guidance and feedback. But here’s my advice: don't overthink this part. If you like and trust someone, ask them if they'd be willing to talk to you. Asking them to be your mentor on the first meeting is coming on a little strong; warm up with a few conversations. Get to know each other, share your professional journeys, and really connect over a few one-on-one appointments. Then, you can "pop the question" and request to set up regular mentoring appointments.

Think long term.

When you're seeking a mentor, remember that mentorship isn't a one and done interaction. Your mentor may be with you for months, even years of your career, so seek out someone who shares your same values and interests. Do you like them? Do they demonstrate integrity? Don’t just ask anyone.

Look outside your own demographic.

When we seek mentors, we often look for people who we have a lot in common with, and that's great! Having a mentor who has had similar experiences can give you essential tools to succeed. However, sometimes finding a mentor who has had a very different experience in life can offer you a unique perspective you wouldn't have had otherwise. Seek different ages, races, genders, and career tracks.

Have the right attitude.

Something Vani shared that really resonated with me was the idea that mentors are not therapists, and your relationship with a mentor is a two way street. Their suggestions for your challenges are directive, but not prescriptive, which means they're offering you advice. If you're hostile or defensive, you're going to dissuade that mentor from giving you feedback in the future. Be open, receptive, and grateful.

Have goals.

When you start out a mentorship relationship, it's great to come to the table with a set of goals. Your mentor will likely also have their own parameters for what they can offer you as a mentor. Knowing these things up front helps you move past your blockers faster and maintains mutual respect and honesty between both parties. Know your goals before you start seeking a mentor.

If you’re looking for a career coach (which is different than a mentor, y’all!) let’s connect! I’m here to help you get that next level position, and it all starts with a one-on-one consultation. Click here to put something on my calendar.

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