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Lead Your Team Managing

6 Valuable Tips for Building a Mentor Relationship

How to be a good mentor
Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

From help navigating difficult decisions to everyday career advice, a mentor can help guide you throughout your career. Getting feedback from someone who is successful and more experienced can help take your career to the next level.

"Everyone needs a confidante ... to go to for advice," said Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at Jobvite. "Whether you seek out your own or are assigned one by your company, having a mentor can be a wonderful asset, no matter the stage you're at in your career."

But, like every relationship, building and maintaining a successful mentor relationship isn't effortless.

"Building your relationship with your mentor is like job searching – you need to put time, effort and focus into cultivating and growing this relationship," said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. "Just as your dream job won't fall into your lap, neither will the perfect mentor relationship."

Check out these six tips for how mentees can build a successful mentor relationship.

The first step to building a successful mentor relationship is finding a mentor. Salemi suggests first identifying your goals, which can help you decide who will be a good mentor for you. You can ask yourself questions like, what do you hope to get out of this relationship? What do you anticipate giving?

"The mentor can only provide you with the guidance and support you need once you figure out what that is," Salemi added. "Once you identify your goals, finding the right fit is important and often comes down to personality and communication style."

In order to build any relationship, you need to get to know each other. Salemi suggests doing the same in a mentor relationship.

"The same rules apply for building a relationship with colleagues as they do for building a mentor relationship," she said. "Try to get to know the person, including learning about their professional background and their personal likes and interests."

The more you know about your mentor, the more they can help you. You can ask them about their professional backgrounds, and how they've navigated past career challenges.

For the relationship to grow, you need to stay in regular contact with your mentor.

"Be consistent and follow through," Salemi said. "Schedule regular check-ins [such as] a monthly phone call, and then face-to-face meetings in person each quarter. In-person meetings are still the most effective way to build a strong relationship!"

"Good mentors are attracted to people who are proactive about their career and eager to learn, take interest in the lives of people around them, and look to add value where they can," Bitte said.

Be prepared for every meeting, and show your mentor you're eager to learn to progress in your career. 

"Be prepared to have specific agendas," Salemi added. "Each time you speak with your mentor, provide an outline ahead of time of what you'd like to discuss. Be specific so both you and your mentor feel like you've met your objectives by the end of your meeting."

Career goals and paths change. Mentor relationships aren't designed to last forever, and that's OK. While your mentor will always be a valuable contact, it's important to know when the relationship has run its course.

"Keep in mind that you may outgrow your mentor as needs change over time," Salemi said. "While that mentor may have been amazing in one specific area, they may not be as knowledgeable in another."

Thank you goes a long way. Let your mentor know you appreciate their advice and time.

"Be sure to express your gratitude throughout your relationship," Bitte said. "A handwritten thank you note can make any amount of work worth it."

"Time is important to all of us and the time your mentor devotes to your meetings, emails and overall advancement should be appreciated and recognized," Salemi added. "Whether it's a simple email or a handwritten note, be sure to point out to your mentor how much you value their input."

Saige Driver

Saige received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Telecommunications from Ball State University. She is the social media strategist for Business.com and Business News Daily. She also writes reviews and articles about social media. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.