So your mentor finally replied? She is your role model; someone you never thought you’d have a conversation with; someone whose work and ethics inspire you. But then how do you make the most out of your relationship with her? You may have written and re-written your first message to her; eliminating unnecessary words; trying to sound ‘serious’ and not the star-struck admirer you really are. Don’t stress too much because there are three basic principles you can use to ensure the best out of your relationship with a mentor.
I)Tell her more about yourself. This is a new person in your life who probably knows a little about you. She probably does not know the important aspects of your life such as your career goals and family life. This is why it is important to first tell her more about you. More information about you will give her a good background about your questions specifically why you ask the questions you ask. Many mentees may ask the same questions, but with completely different backgrounds and reasons for asking. Telling your mentor about yourself and why you are asking that question will enable her to give you a more customized answer; one that is prescriptive to your life. For instance, asking your mentor for advice to become more confident is good but asking her for advice to increase your confidence due to your inherent fear of public speaking, will enable her provide you with a more tailor-made answer on the aspect of stage-fright and public speaking.
II)Structure your questions well. The most important thing is to structure your questions well, in order to receive the most helpful answer. This means asking a very specific question which is geared towards a specific aspect of your life. This, however, does not mean that you can ask only one specific question; you can ask as many questions within the mentoring scope of that your mentor as long as your questions are smart and specific. This will save a lot of time and would render a more effective metorship. For instance, if I want to know how to become a doctor, I may want to specify what type of doctor I want to be i.e. pediatrician, surgeon, gynecologist. I also may want to specify where I currently am in the quest of my goal i.e. Am I in high school? College? I may also want specify what my future plans are and then start the discussion with my mentor from there. Asking specific and structured questions provides tailor-made advice for me and improves the mentorship.
III)Be patient. In the course of your relationship with your mentor, she may not answer as fast as you’d like her to. Also, she may not provide the particular answers you were hoping for. Don’t be discouraged and be patient. These are women leaders with many commitments in their lives. She is probably contemplating on the best advice for you. While you are waiting, you could be doing more research into her background on any particular milestones and experiences, you would like to know more about. Furthermore, if you do not receive the answers you were looking for you can either phrase your questions differently or seek to understand the answer you got. For instance, if I ask her how I can become a better doctor and she proposes I go to graduate school but that wasn’t in my plans, I can seek to understand exactly how graduate school may advance my career. In this way, I will be getting more from my mentorship.