Mentor-Mentee Relationships: Fundamentals of Communication

To maintain a positive relationship with a mentor: keep it simple and clear. State your purpose and where you are coming from. This sort of context will help your mentor gauge where your thought process is coming from and provide feedback in a purposeful way that makes sense to you. 

Remember that it is also GREAT to be honest and say “I am not sure where to start.” Uncertainty is an underlying fabric of the mentee-mentor relationship, so no need to worry about needing to have all or any answers. Asking the right questions is truly more important because it offers you new venues or areas of exploration that you may genuinely enjoy. 

Come in prepared. Remember that they are people too so be mindful of their busy lives and schedules. So with scheduling in mind, you can maximize your time with a mentor by coming into the conversation prepared. That can look like having a set of questions you came up with the night before, a 30-minute chat about an idea you want to unpack with them, or maybe an article you want to share with them that relates to what you want to achieve. Coming to the conversation prepared will help you save time and make the most of your time.

Remember that a mentee-mentor relationship is a two way street. Demonstrate gratitude and let them know what is helping you with clear examples! They are people too and providing positive feedback can help them stay motivated and build a stronger relationship with you.

Instead of saying,

Thanks for the help. It is great!

Be more clear and specific,

Hey, thank you for sharing those resources with me during the last meeting. It helped me learn how to break down my goals into smaller steps using the SMART method. Now I feel more confident in managing my personal goals as smaller tasks and celebrating small victories.

As you can see with this example, you are explaining to your mentor the WHAT was helpful (the resources shared with you) and the WHY (you have a better idea of how to break down large projects into smaller feasible tasks that you can track over time). Showing this level of gratitude and specificity will help keep your mentor engaged and let them know that you are committed to the relationship and learning. 

Now with that said, it is also important to be honest with your mentor. Let them know what is not working for you so that the quality of the support offered to you can be fine-tuned. Of course, be compassionate but do not compromise the honesty so find that balance that works for you. Remember that the balance is a part of an adaptive process, so you will figure out how to communicate best with your mentor as you spend more time with them.

Instead of saying,

Hey, this is not helping me.

Be more clear and specific,

Hey, the warm-up activity we did last meeting was not relevant to me. I do not want to spend time brainstorming ideas on web design because I do not know much about the subject. I would rather look at projects that are already out there and unpack what the creators did well and did not. How does that sound?

Again, you are explaining WHAT is not working well (the brainstorming activity) and WHY it is not the most useful to you (you have little to no knowledge on the subject matter so you would rather spend time learning about web design from people who have done something with it). 

Have fun with the process. This learning process will push you to grow, so expect to have questions and work hard. Remember that developing your skills and knowledge requires patience and repetition. Work on projects with your mentor that make sense to you. Maybe you are interested in creating your own website for your own company or are interested in data visualization to upgrade your skills. Let your mentor know and they can help you work on projects that will keep you motivated. Good luck!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

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