Mentoring is important because it’s the passing along of wisdom that came from experience, acquired over years of working in a specific company or industry. Mentoring can help with the soft-skills, such as working on a team, with a manager, and thinking about what a career might look like.
But those who are starting off their careers don’t always know the best way to utilize a mentor. What can or should a mentor do for you? What is their role?
Here are 3 ways to maximize the valuable time you get with your mentor.
1. Talk about “the big picture”
Mentors are best at helping you see the big picture, which can be hard to see when your head is down, focused, and you’re deep into the details of work. A mentor will help you take a step back and look at your situation in a larger context. That’s essential when it comes to thinking and acting long-term.
Unfortunately, we can get so tied up in the daily work that we don’t ever have the time or the opportunity to lift our heads up and see the broader context of what we’re doing. Working with a mentor gives you that moment and their perspective.
2. Ask for their advice regarding people/teams
Mentors have probably been in your situation before, when it comes to working as an individual contributor or on a team. Everyone starts out that way, so a mentor can help you navigate situations that you may be encountering for the first time. Mentors can often help you to recognize situations and behavior patterns. They understand power dynamics in the workplace and can often help you navigate your particular situation.
If you have a mentor within an organization, they will know about the culture, the priorities, and the people to know. If you have a mentor in the same vertical (such as marketing), they will know how projects are supposed to work, how teams work best together, and how marketing campaigns and projects typically run.
3. Discuss what your next steps might be
Your mentor will get to know you and will come to understand your strengths and your passions. For that reason, s/he is in the perfect position to give you guidance, based on what you share. You may talk to them about team dynamics, for example, or wins and successes in your work. From these conversations, s/he will learn what your “zone of genius” is and how you might maximize this in your career.
Talking to your mentor about what you’re good at, what you love doing, and what you’d like to do in your career is one of the best ways to utilize their time and expertise. S/he may even know about opportunities that you don’t even know exist!