Having a mentor in your life can make a big difference to your success and happiness. Study after study has found that professionals who have had mentors experience higher salaries and greater job satisfaction; one study of Sun Microsystems employees found that mentored employees were five times more likely to be promoted than their nonmentored peers. At-risk young adults who are mentored are more likely to stay in school, off drugs, and out of jail.
But to get the most from a mentor, you — the mentee — need to be open to pushing yourself and learning. We spoke to mentors and mentoring experts to get their advice on how to make your relationship with a mentor fulfilling, rewarding, and worthwhile.
Be prepared for change. “Mentoring can have a profound impact on your personal growth, but you have to be open to change.” — Lois Zachary, EdD, author of a number of books on mentoring including The Mentee’s Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You.
Trust your mentor. “Not only open your mind, but open your heart to the other.” — Rabbi Victor Gross, codirector of the ALEPH Sage-ing Mentorship, a spiritual mentoring program in Boulder, Colo.
Be an active listener. “Always make sure you understand what your mentor is saying or asking. If not, don’t be afraid to ask questions.” — Rabbi Victor Gross
Be authentic. “Unless the mentee is real, the mentor ends up mentoring an imposter and it’s a waste of time for both.” — Lois Zachary, EdD
Be committed. “If your mentor is willing to make the commitment, you need to honor her time and willingness to work with you.” — Liz Katkin, former partner at an international law firm and mentor for new associates.
Challenge yourself. “If you stay in your comfort zone, that’s where you’ll always be. You need to stretch yourself. Take risks.” — Rabbi Victor Gross
Don’t expect to be promoted; expect to be promotable. “It’s not about immediate achievement. It’s about developing your future potential.” — Lois Zachary, EdD
For more on mentoring, see “The Value of Mentoring.”