It’s important to have someone you can confide in and learn from, to help guide you in your life, your career and everything that falls in between—and when it’s done right, that relationship can be critical to your growth and success.
Every mentorship is different, but they all have the potential to help you grow, improve and be successful at whatever you do or want to do. There are certain things you can do, as a mentee, to make sure your relationship with your mentor stays strong and beneficial, even during the busiest quarters.
Related: Get a Mentor and Get Growing
So whether you’re looking for a mentor or already have one, remember to…
1. Clearly communicate that you’re looking for a mentor.
Sometimes people consider asking to get coffee or for 15 minutes of time as the start of a mentorship, but it helps if you’re transparent and they know that you’re actually asking for a mentor. (You might be surprised—they might invest more into the conversation.)
So reach out with an explicit purpose. If an email only mentions grabbing coffee, it may seem less pressing. And if you do get on their calendar, don’t expect them to commit to future meetings where you’re looking to “pick their brain.” Present expectations as to what you are looking for. Maybe it’s a monthly meeting over coffee or 20-minute phone calls every other week. This will allow them to either commit or decline your offer, and even open the conversation up to a third response—they may be inclined to introduce you to someone on their team or in their network who they feel is a better fit.
2. Be mindful of your mentor’s busy schedule.
Face-to-face meetings are great; however, we’re all busy and you don’t want to lose steam waiting to find a slot on someone’s calendar. A mentor is there to give advice when you need it most and, sometimes, that advice can be shared on a quick call or a single question email.
Be mindful of your mentor’s time and make sure that you’re asking them questions that are relevant to their experience and background. If there’s no need to grab a coffee or you’re looking for an immediate response, try to make giving feedback as easy as possible—by meeting them, or talking to them, on their time and on their terms.
3. Recognize that mentorship is a two-way street.
Treat a mentorship like any other relationship in your life. It’s important to acknowledge when specific advice or feedback is particularly helpful. Share your success stories from the feedback they gave you. Chances are, your mentor will really appreciate it and may go on to share that same advice with others.
Think of it like working with a personal trainer: If a certain workout is making an impact, telling your trainer will only benefit you both. Don’t be too shy to brag a little! After all, you couldn’t have done it without their help.
4. Always be courteous.
Remember that your mentor is investing their time in you because they believe in you. Whenever you interact with your mentor, it’s just as important to show that you are as grateful for their guidance as you are ambitious to achieve your goals.
Be mindful to not let your relationship cross the line from professional to casual. Even if you say thank you at the end of every call, sometimes a thoughtful card letting them know you genuinely appreciate their advice and guidance will go a longer way. Because at the end of the day, you asked for their help.
5. Spread the love.
Nothing makes a mentor happier than to hear that you’ve adopted a mentee, that you’re sharing what you learned through your mentorship experience with others in your networks and circles.
Your mentor initially agreed to this relationship as an act of paying it forward. Someone along the way helped them, and now it’s their turn to help you. By sharing their time and looking for ways to help you succeed, an unspoken piece of advice from them to you is to do this for others.
Mona is the CEO and founder of Motivate Design, a UX design, research and staffing shop based in New York City. Motivate Design helps clients discover customer needs and design solutions that meet those needs. Through her experience, Mona developed the Reframework, an 8-step process that any company can use. She recently released an Amazon best-seller, Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think, that demonstrates how this process can help companies innovate and design simple, beautiful experiences. In addition to helping clients and other Fortune 500 companies feel unstuck, Mona is also a teacher at Parsons the New School for Design.