The role of a mentor is to make you great. Her time is nothing but a gift to you. She could be having coffee with a friend, but she’s trying to help make you great. There is little you can do to compensate your mentor for her time. You can’t pay her and you probably don’t have anything she needs.
But there is something those of you who want to get the most out of a mentor can do – you can learn how to be a good steward of your mentor’s investment in you. More of us would probably commit to mentoring others if we knew that our investment could bring a good return.
Here are seven ways to manage your mentor:
1. Clarify what you hope to gain from your time together. Do you just want a friend or are you looking for help in growing in a role you have? Clarify this in your own mind and then communicate it to your mentor.
2. Communicate about meeting details: how frequently you’d like to meet and for how long and for how many months. If you don’t know each other well, I recommend spending 90 minutes weekly for a month followed by an assessment (at which point you decide about meeting further). If you already know each other, your meetings can be shorter if you both prefer.
3. Organize your time together. Make it easy on your mentor. Set the time and place. Initiate the meeting and text your mentor to confirm the day of the meeting.
4. Take notes on the advice your mentor gives you and follow through on it. Type up the notes and your commitments and e-mail them to your mentor.
5. Report in on how you followed through on the assignments your mentor gave you. This is the emotional payoff for your mentor; it shows that you really did value her advice.
6. Thank your mentor. Do it verbally, by e-mail, by letter and any other way that lets your mentor know how valuable you feel her investment in you is.
7. Mentor someone else. The ultimate compliment to a mentor is that you would take her advice and use it to help others like yourself. You don’t have to be middle age to mentor another, you just have to be willing and able to help that person grow in a specific area of their life.
How to find a mentor
It’s a lot easier than finding a spiritual father or a life coach. Don’t over-complicate it or over-spiritualize it. Start in your church or workplace or perhaps in your Christmas card list of people you’ve known. Look for someone you admire of your same gender and pray through how specifically they could help you grow. Then, choose to trust her. Ask her to lunch (you buy it) and tell her your objective in meeting.