Mentors can be a great help and can lead to success and greater satisfaction in our jobs.  A student came in the other day to ask how to start a mentoring relationship.  She admired one of the managers at work a great deal and wondered whether, as a part-time student employee, it would be appropriate for her to approach this manager.  The answer is ‘absolutely’!

Mentoring is about maximising the opportunity for professional development through guided reflection and discussion.  It can be informal or formal, for a short length of time or longer.

The important thing to keep in mind when initiating a mentoring relationship is to be clear about what goals you want to accomplish.  The mentor will be giving up a great deal of their time to help you in your career and you won’t want to waste their time.  What is the outcome you are hoping to achieve?  How will you know when you’ve achieved it?  You will also need to think about how often you want to meet, how long you meet for on each occasion, where you will meet and the length of time you envision the mentoring relationship to continue ie 3 months, 6 months, one year?  When you reach the end of the time frame, both of you can then review how it went, whether your goals have been met and whether you wish to extend the relationship.

It is important to build rapport by exchanging background information and seek to build a relationship of trust and confidentiality.  As a mentee you need to be realistic and open to constructive feedback.   The whole purpose of the relationship is for personal and professional development so you need to explore the implications of positive as well as negative feedback.

A mentoring relationship can be extremely rewarding.  It can open up a wide range of opportunities and give you access to professional networks.  A good mentor can be key to your success.  If there is someone out there whose work you admire and would like to learn from, then go ahead and approach them.  Just make sure you follow the preparation tips above.  Good luck!

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