Five tips for getting the most out of your mentoring relationship

Are you at a crossroads in your career? Are you looking to expand your support network? Do you have ambitious goals but not sure how to reach them?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then mentoring could be for you. In fact, mentoring is for everyone, no matter what stage of your career you are at - from marketing assistant through to CMO.

Why mentoring?

John Crosby defined mentoring as "a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction". This quote really does summarise the benefits of mentoring. Mentoring allows you to see things from another perspective. As a mentee, it gives you an independent view outside of your usual network. It enables you to have discussions and to ask questions that might feel uncomfortable in a work environment.

A good mentor will be non-judgemental, yet will challenge to make you pause and reflect. They will be supportive and encouraging, building your confidence and providing you with the 'nudge' you might need to take that next step.

So, as a mentee, how do you ensure you get the most from the experience?

  1. Be proactive. Think carefully about what you want to achieve from the mentoring relationship. Are there specific areas you would like support on? Do you have overall goals? It is also useful to consider what your mentor could get from the relationship. What could they learn from you? After all, mentoring should be a two-way relationship.
  2. Be committed. Make no mistake, mentoring is an investment of time and effort. To get the most from the experience, dedicate the time and energy to really invest in the mentoring relationship and make sure that there is regular communication. Carving time out to invest in yourself (even beyond a mentoring relationship) is a great habit to get into and one I believe is truly beneficial in terms of career development. Only by stepping off of the day-to-day merry-go-round and giving ourselves time to think can we start to make sense of our goals and build a plan around what we need to do to achieve them.
  3. Be curious. A key part of mentoring is to gain understanding of ourselves and our motivations. Be open-minded and prepared to step outside of your comfort zone. We only grow by challenging ourselves. Mentoring may well give you the confidence to pursue opportunities you wouldn't have considered previously.
  4. Take responsibility. It is your career so don't expect the mentor to have all the answers. Drive the relationship and come prepared with ideas. It's a two-way process. One common misconception people often have about mentoring is that the mentor is there to solve all your issues and to come up with the solutions. Don't expect the mentor to have all the answers.
  5. Be open and honest. A mentoring relationship should be a 'trusted partnership' and foster open and frank conversations.

Where to find a mentor

The CIM has lots of great resources to help you find a mentor. If you are a member, you have free access to CIM's mentoring platform. This allows you to search for a mentor that best suits your needs - you can search by skillset, industry or region. You can access the Mentoring platform via your MyCIM account.

Having a mentor is one of the best career decisions you can make. If you're thinking about it, you're already showing that you're driven and want to succeed, so why not take the first step on the journey to fully realise your potential?

Sharon Collins, Vice Chair CIM South East Regional Board