Motivating Your Mentor

Q: I’ve been assigned a company mentor. However, our relationship is not what I want it to be. How can I improve it?

A: Often, the people being mentored view these relationships as one-sided, but they aren’t. “You must enter the relationship with thoughts about how you can motivate your mentor to give you the best advice, and not just about what they can do for you,” says James A. Carter, president of Carter Learning Systems, a Durham, North Carolina, corporate training firm.

Show your mentor that you value his or her expertise and experience. This means being prompt for appointments, sending thank-you notes and giving timely feedback about how you used and benefited from his or her advice. Inform your mentor of your career aspirations and business strengths and weaknesses, adds Carter. Being open and honest can help to continuously expand the relationship.

Finally, you must create value for your mentor. Ask what he or she hopes to get from the relationship and do your part to achieve those goals. Also, it’s the small things that count: if you came across something that would appeal to your mentor, like an article in a newspaper or trade journal, share it with him or her.

If you’ve done all of these things and the relationship has still stalled, have a heart-to-heart talk with your mentor about what needs to be done to improve it. If things still don’t improve, then you must find another mentor who can provide the resources you need.

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