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Make the Most of Your Mentoring Relationship


Navigating a career search can be tricky. A strong mentor can guide you through the job search process and offer advice, inspiration and support. A mentor can also teach you new skills and help expand your network. Work with your mentor to create a plan, establish goals, and track your progress. Follow these tips to get the most out of your mentoring relationship:

Decide why you want a mentor. Whether you’re looking for someone with a similar skill set to guide you through a career path or hoping to learn new skills, pinpoint what you’re looking for.

Find a mentor. Networking is a great way to find a good match. Attend industry events, join professional groups and associations, and consider former colleagues. Or, find one through the Veteran or Military Spouse eMentor Program.

Create goals for your mentoring relationship. Tighten the focus by writing a list of objectives, such as strengthening your interviewing skills or polishing your resume. Discuss them with your mentor at the start of your relationship, and review them regularly to make sure you’re on course and the relationship is working.

Determine how you’ll stay in touch. While you might prefer weekly check-ins via email, your mentor might request monthly phone chats. Talk with your mentor to decide how often you’ll communicate, and whether it’s by phone, Skype, email, or chat. Regular communication is key to establishing a bond and getting great results. Meeting face to face, especially in the beginning, can help establish a deeper connection, so be sure to schedule a few in-person meetings.

Build trust. After you earn your mentor’s trust, he or she will share more with you. Act responsibly to gain it. Never cancel appointments. Follow up on leads in a timely and professional manner.

Soak up knowledge. Always be attentive when your mentor shares advice and skills. Be an active listener and proactive in applying what you’ve learned. Ask for feedback and graciously accept his or her corrections — don’t get defensive.

Be thankful. Becoming a mentor is a big responsibility that takes a lot of time, so always treat your mentor with respect, courtesy and appreciation. Don’t demand too much of your mentor’s time or request too many favors or introductions to contacts. Work around your mentor’s schedule and be patient when a request isn’t answered immediately. Mentors tend to give a lot in the relationship, so recognize that by thanking your mentor regularly.

Mix it up. There are many ways to learn from your mentor. To get the most out of the relationship, vary the types of things you do together. For example, ask your mentor about his or her past experiences, review written materials like your resume and cover letter, and discuss your goals, plan of action, and skill development. Invite your mentor to attend professional events like conferences and meetings. You can also ask your mentor if it’s possible to shadow him or her at work.

Meet more mentors. Don’t feel that you need to limit yourself to one mentor. People have different experiences and skill sets. By building relationships with other individuals in your field, you’ll be expanding your network and your knowledge base.