At some point in their career, most successful professionals received mentoring along the way. Having the right mentor can help launch professionals to the next level.
While budding professionals seek out mentors to help guide their careers, most successful professionals also mentor other professionals along the way. Some of the most successful mentorships are a two-way street. The mentee gains experienced advice, and the mentor benefits from a fresh perspective and the satisfaction of giving back.
A mentor-mentee relationship can be very valuable and satisfying, but like any relationship, building and maintaining the relationship requires effort and thought. A successful mentor-mentee relationship does not just happen. Check out the following tips to creating a successful partnership:
- Know the why. The first step of a successful mentorship is to determine what your goals are. What do you want to get out of the relationship? What would you like the outcome to be? Some guiding questions are, “What do you need professionally to grow?” or “What are my strengths and how can I guide?”
- Set expectations early. Know how much time you have to give. Set the schedule and stick to it — make a commitment. The mentor and mentee may agree on a monthly call. Be realistic about the time you have and schedule it into your calendar, like any other meeting.
- Be prepared. If you are reading this or are already in a mentor relationship, you are a professional who is proactive about their career. You are likely eager to learn and eager to succeed. Being prepared for each meeting shows you value each other’s time and the opportunity. You get back the amount of energy you put in.
- Keep an open mind. This is a two-way street. Communication should be clear, open and honest. Ask questions of each other. It is okay to challenge each other. When both the mentor and mentee challenge each other, both will grow. You do not always have to follow advice, but you should always listen and evaluate.
- Stay positive. The mentee must remember the mentor wants to help. Feedback is meant to be constructive and is a learning opportunity. It is not given to criticize. The mentor should recognize where the mentee is professionally, display patience, and acknowledge when growth is made.
How do you find a mentor? Often, it happens organically. You could already be in a mentor relationship without realizing the role each of you are playing.
You can seek out a mentor. Networking events can prove to be very beneficial. Find a professional organization within your industry and become active. Organizations like the Women in Fitness Association (WIFA) help seek out and pair professionals. Below is some advice from a couple of WIFA members who have participated in a purposeful mentor pairing by WIFA:
- Stephanie Silber, WIFA member and founder and CEO of FitSwop, has participated in numerous WIFA mentor pairings. She advises to talk via phone or Zoom, and avoid email-only communication. She feels being able to see the person with whom you are speaking proves to be valuable. She also suggests setting the pace collectively, then scheduling meetings out. Lastly, she suggests getting to know the person right away by asking about them. Getting to know the other person helps build the relationship.
- Akaylah Jaeke, WIFA member and faculty member at Madison College, believes a successful mentor relationship requires preparation, action and maintenance. She believes the relationship needs to be authentic and transparent for both parties to benefit. She boasts that a successful mentor relationship can change your life. You never know the connections you can make. Akaylah even met her husband through one of her mentor relationships, which proves these relationships are life-changing!
Sandy Wiedmeyer is the fitness manager at Pleasant Prairie RecPlex.