Being a good mentee – some unwritten rules

An important aspect of finding a mentor is being a good mentee. There are some simple “unwritten rules” that I’ve experienced that I feel mentees should be aware of. Some of them seem like common sense, and unfortunately are not common practice. I am not sure if they will be universally accepted, and I hope starting the conversation will help to get a good baseline.  None of these are overly common and if I can help one mentor-mentee interaction, then I would have succeed. Here we go!

  1. Make it convenient for the mentor:

    •  I’ve had a few experiences where I’ve been asked to meet and when scheduling a time, I was asked to fit into into the mentees schedule. Something to the effect of “sorry, I’m only available at this, this and this time. I’d appreciate if you accommodated my schedule”. Being the nice person I am, I have often accommodated (and make sure I provide the feedback once we do meet). I often wonder what a potential mentor might do which such a demanding request…working around the schedule of the person you are networking with shows they are important. Their schedule and needs can be put above yours. That does not mean you have to cancel existing appointments or skip once in a lifetime events. I does mean that if you have to deal with a little inconvenience, then it’s better that you deal with the inconvenience than have your potential mentor do so.
    • Why: if I’m the mentor, I’m thinking that if this interaction in inconvenient from me, the next few will probably be as, or even more inconvenient
  2. Offer to pay

    • Make sure you offer. That does not mean you have to pay, as the mentor may offer to pay and you don’t necessarily have to fight them off to do so. You need to at least offer and make an attempt to pay. And if they do manage to pay, then you should offer to get the next one. Which is a great tactic to open up the opportunity for a next meet up.
    • Why: paying shows you value the person and their time. At least as much as the cost of a coffee.
  3. Prepare and be mindful of their time

    • The conversations that have impressed me the most were with those that did not ask me to tell me about myself and my background. They did their due diligence and read my LinkedIn profile, and my website. They put together a profile of me. Then they proceed to ask me questions where information was not available online.  Those conversations made me want to help that person as much as I can.
    • Also, some have been prompt at saying that they only asked me for 30 minutes and wanted to let me get on with my day. If I know a potential mentee will be respectful of m time, I am often more than happy to spend extra time with them even after the 30 mins are up.
    • Why: preparing and being mindful of their time shows that you respect them and their time. You took the time and were proactive enough to research what you could find out about me. Those are qualities that I’d love to hire for that cannot easily be trained. Being mindful of my time would make be want to schedule another meeting in the future as I know that I could squeeze out 15-30 minutes out of my day and have it be useful time
  4. Listen and do

    • Being interested instead of interesting is one of the first pieces of networking guidance I share. It’s easy to be interested when you’re listening. It’s hard to be interested when you’re the one doing the talking
    • And some of the most frustrating moments when mentoring someone is the follow up where you ask how they did with the advice you spent your time sharing, only to find out that they did nothing. Make sure you make their guidance a priority. If it’s to read a book, you might not have read it, but at least have ordered it, or checked whether it was available at the library, or whether any of your friends have a copy. Do something with the advice provided
    • Why: Listening will help you be a good mentee as you are open to the advice being provided. Doing shows that you are taking the advice that they are given to heart.
  5. Thank them

    • You wouldn’t think that I would need to say this, but you’d be surprised. Thank them before you meet them. Be a good mentee and thank them after they’ve shared their guidance
    • Follow up with a thank you email or communication to let them know what you will do with the guidance. Then follow up with another note in a few months to let them know what you did with the guidance.
    • Why: Practicing gratitude is an important skill to develop if you want to have a fulfilled life. And thanking someone when they just helped provide you with potentially life changing advice would definitely be a good place to start.
  6. Understand needs and add value

    • My approach to building meaningful connections is to understand the challenges of the person on the other side and seeing if I could be of help. That help would hopefully add value to them. Check out some of the BMC and related posts for more information
    • Why: Making the conversation worth their while is a great way to be accepted for future
  7. Know you are not entitled

    • An important feature about networking is that the person on the other side has the option to say No. If you can make the conversation enticing for them, then the might be more inclined to connect. At the end of the day, you should not feel resentful if they do not respond or say no. Simply move on, or you could try a few more times if you wanted.
    • Why: Dwelling and being bitter about why someone is not responding does not serve you. You can put that energy into something more productive, like finding someone else that might be more open and free with their time
    • FYI: No doesn’t really mean No. It just means “No until you’ve increased your value to a point where you might be interesting to me”. So if you can articulate more value to the person, then the No, might become a Yes in the future.
  8. Follow up

    • Similar to some of the other points above, following up asking how they are, providing an update with what you’ve been up to, along with any progress you’ve made on the actions items they provided is a good way to build the mentor/mentee relationship
    • Why: you should take the initiative to develop the relationship instead of relying on the other person
  9. Reflect and learn!

    • Take the time to confirm that you’ve done all of the above. If you haven’t, make it a point to do so in the next interaction. Look at what went well and do more of that. Look at what didn’t go so well and avoid doing more of that.
    • Why: Getting better often happens faster when you are more purposeful with your improvements

Following these will help you with networking and becoming a good if not a great mentee!


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