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Getting the Most from a Mentorship

written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 5/19/2011

How should you decide on a mentor? What's the best way to ensure a strong mentoring relationship? There is a simple method that will ensure you are entering a mentorship that will pay great dividends for you. When it is well performed, you virtually guarantee yourself a worthwhile experience.

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    Develop Your Criteria

    Listening to employee 

    Choosing a mentor can be a big decision for any employee. Without a structured plan of action and a good understanding of what to do, it becomes very easy to just choose someone you know or succumb to the influence of others. The end result is you may or may not get the best possible mentor for youself at this point in time.

    So, let’s look at some different types of criteria for you to consider and see if we can put together a better way to select your mentor. Before you start identifying your criteria in writing, think about the most successful mentors, managers, leaders, business owners, or other people in business. When you identify the ones you perceive as being the best at what they do, what are you thinking about? Do they make great decisions, have many valuable business contacts, the ability to speak skillfully, or visionary perception? It could be any number of things that pop into your head.

    Now, with some of those thoughts still fresh in your mind, what is it you would like a mentor to be able to do for you? Are there skills, attributes, characteristics, talents, knowledge, experience or information they have that you would like to acquire? Write down what is most important to you in choosing a mentor.

    As an added benefit, what you identify in writing will be part of your overall objective that you set during your mentoring relationship. Without it, pretty much anything that happens will seem okay until you evaluate the mentoring relationship at the end when it’s over, when you realize you didn’t accomplish nearly as much as you could have.

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    Identify Potential Mentors

    Mentor greeting mentee 

    With your two lists of information, stack-rank from most to least important the criteria, attributes, or characteristics as you’ve identified them on one side of a piece of paper. The most important things you’d like to get from a mentor go on the other side. These rankings will help in determining the initial people you should consider in deciding upon a mentor. Ultimately, one from your list will be the best one to choose at the time you make the selection.

    Now that you have stack-ranked the information, list the names of the people you believe have the qualities that will meet or exceed your criteria, who will be able to help you achieve your objectives. Initially, list as many as names as possible. You will cross-off names as you begin to apply the two lists of information

    Once you have most of the names selected, take your criteria and apply it to the names of the possible mentors. To help narrow down the field, use your top 2 or 3 criteria as the key determining factors. Once you get down to the final 1 or 2 people, apply what you’d like to get from your mentor and see if one of the people stands out. If not, either choice will work for you.

    Contact your first choice to see if he is able to be your mentor. If not, you still have choice number two as a backup, plus the list of other potential mentors in case you need to use any of them.