For many young people, especially in Africa, mentoring relationships are a far-fetched idea. It is painfully true that there are hundreds of bright young people who fail because they do not understand the importance of receiving mentorship from people who have come before them. A mentor, especially one who has recorded success in your field of endeavor, is very important because they will help you navigate the pitfalls, they had to go through on their way to achieving success.
Like any relationship, you need to nurture a mentoring relationship to make it work. We put together some intuitive tips to help you make the most of any mentoring relationship.
Have a blueprint
The common mistake many mentees make is to meet their mentors and have a spontaneous, unplanned discussion about their projects and thoughts. While it is true that a few people have the natural ability to have an excellent unplanned conversation about their projects with their mentors, it is generally bad advice to go unprepared. They will identify your unpreparedness and leave the conversation with an uninspired impression about you.
Before you meet your mentor, have the foresight to envisage and identify the issues that you want to talk about. Also, preparation ensures that you’re not predictable. In the same you would hate watching a hastily produced movie because the plot is too cliché, mentors tend to lose interest in mentees who employ the same strategy that everyone else has employed. Mentors often seek out crisp reasoning, and this is something adequate preparation can help you achieve. If you make every meeting with your mentor unique, you exceed their expectations, and the chances that you will elicit the best from your mentor are high.
Avoid (too much) small talk
Most mentees have this strange idea that that their mentors are supposed to lead serious conversations. This is wrong. Your mentor is there to listen to you and advise you, but you must take the lead and state in clear terms you want. Simply, avoid beating about the bush for too long. Go for the jugular.
Gather Intelligence about your mentor:
In football, especially in professional football, coaches watch video clips of their opponents to look for strengths which they can prepare to match. As a mentee, you should do likewise! Study your mentor before meeting them. Acquaint yourself with the kind of questions they like asking. Look for ways to make it easy for them to understand your project, thoughts, etc. Determine what you want to get from each meeting with your mentor and work hard to get it. If you want an introduction, state it in clear terms. Lay out the options and make it easy or them to help out. You can only do this then you have a sense of the sort of people they know. Work hard in advance.
End your meetings with a clear understanding of the issues discussed during the meeting. You must know when it is time to end the meeting. Leave no room for vagueness. Tell your mentor what your next line of action would be. And build your credibility by following up on the next steps. This way, what is up for your next conversation is clear and your work is made a lot easier.