IMPMO: Mentoring Part II: Key tips to being a great mentee

Updated: May 25

In My Project Manager’s Opinion – In Part I of Mentoring, I talked about the traits of a great mentor. In this article, I want to highlight key tips on being mentored. As a mentee, my experience has shown me that in order to get the most out of the relationship, I need to be just as engaged as my mentor during our mentor-mentee time together.

Here are four (4) simple tips on how to maximize the full benefits of being mentored, especially in an informal mentoring relationship:

  1. Ask. First things first: if there is someone that you admire and want to learn from, ask them to be your mentor. That’s what I’ve done for the many years in my career. The worst thing they can say is “no”. And sometimes that no is “not right now”. From my experience, most folks I approached were flattered and honored to be asked. And if the would-be mentor is not available, oftentimes they will suggest someone else in their circle for me to ask instead. Win!

  2. Ask questions. Be open to asking questions of your mentor. Over the years, I’ve learned not to be too proud to simply ask what I don’t know. In establishing the relationship, my mentors know that I am looking to them for guidance in navigating my career path—I will have questions! And for the questions they cannot answer, we oftentimes work together to find a resolution. Which has only added to my growth in the process.

  3. Be proactive. Once I established a relationship, I took it upon myself to proactively set up our meeting times, send the calendar invites and have an established “agenda” of topics. Now that’s just me. I want to ensure that the time together is meaningful and well spent. However, being proactive does not have to entail being regimented either. Like the definition, being proactive is not waiting for your mentor to send an email or request time together. After all, as the mentee, I’m the one who stands to gain the most from the relationship. I need to ensure I make things happen!

  4. Find more than one mentor. I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog posting but it is worth sharing again: have a board of directors. A “board of directors” consists of individuals of various agencies, industries, and career fields. For me, the benefit of assembling a board of directors is that I am able to diversify my resources and include people from different backgrounds and experiences that can speak to my situation in different ways.

As the mentee, I benefit greatly from the relationship when I am engaged. I didn’t sit back and expect my mentor to just feed me their life’s story just because they agreed to be my mentor. The more I engaged with my mentor, the more they reciprocated and provided value to my growth. I truly believed that my level of engagement demonstrated my appreciation of their investment in me and prompted them to put more back into my success.

The times when I lost engagement was when one of us or both of us realized the relationship was either not a good match or we matured out of the need to continue the relationship.

One thing’s for certain: when I am actively participating in the mentor-mentee relationship, the experience is tremendous in elevating my knowledge and growth professionally and personally.

Crystal Richards is the Principal & Owner of Mosaic Resource Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping project management professionals better themselves in all things project management, communications, and leadership. Crystal provides training and professional development for people who manage projects from the novice project manager to the senior project leader.

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