Mentors are the people who are almost as committed to your future success as you are—and sometimes even more so. Mentors may come in many forms, but the defining factor of any mentor is the impact they have on you and the attainment of your goals.
“For the most successful partnership, the mentee needs to realize it’s not a one-way street and to take an active role,” says Margie Decker, Executive Director of Career Services for Strayer University. She and Jacqueline Palmer, EdD, Special Assistant to the President of Strayer University, recently shared thoughts on how a mentee can contribute to the mentor relationship.
You can have the perfect mentor, but that won’t help you if your own mindset is getting in the way. “Mentees can be fearful,” says Decker. “They can think, ‘I don’t have time to have someone tell me what to do.’ That’s why it’s really important to have an open mind, or growth mindset. Your mentor may give you prospects or ideas you wouldn’t come up with on your own. Keeping an open mind will take more time and energy, but it can have a strong impact on your education and your career.”
“Listen to your mentor and their advice,” says Palmer. “They’ve walked that path. They know what you’re experiencing.”
Part of that growth mindset involves taking action. A mentor can help you develop detailed, thoughtful plans, but if the plans are never put into motion, they will never deliver any value. “Don’t just say ‘Yes’ and then not do anything,” Decker says. “Sometimes the steps feel hard, or students wonder why they’ve been advised to do a certain thing. Reminding yourself that this is all in service to their future career can help them move forward.”
Palmer agrees. “A good mentee is engaged,” she says. “The mentors have a lot of energy, but the mentee needs to be responsive to keep the mentor engaged.” She also suggests regular reporting back as progress is made -- or if there have been problems making progress. “When you take suggestions and recommendations, be actionable, and then let the mentor know. They need to know you’re listening and when you have results or questions.”
“Some people worry that a mentor will always demand something of them,” Decker says. “On the flip side, a mentee may expect too much of a mentor. The best thing is to talk with your mentor about time and boundaries right away, agree on expectations around communications, and then keep your agreement.”
We all like to know that we matter and make a difference. For the people working to help you succeed, this is especially important. Show your mentor how you are progressing on your journey. Keep them in the loop. Make sure they know you take their guidance to heart and are using it.
Did your mentor inspire you to take a leap and pursue a new career? Tell them how your interviews are going once you begin your job search. Did they tutor you for a challenging final? Show them your passing score! And never forget to say thank you.
The single greatest thank you for your mentor is to watch you succeed. It reaffirms your partnership and is tangible evidence of their own success as a mentor. Tokens of appreciation, generous “thank you’s,” and even reciprocated advice are all great ways to be a good mentee. However, actions speak the loudest—listening to the mentor, keeping the mentor apprised of both successes and challenges, and making every effort to proceed through your degree program are the most visible (and appreciated) ways to be a successful mentee.
“There is such a great value in the mentor-mentee relationship,” says Palmer. “It’s my desire and goal for all students to take full advantage of it.”
Learn more about Strayer University’s online degree programs.