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5 Ways to Maximize Your Experience with a Mentor

Whether you find a mentor through an official work program or through an informal arrangement, it’s important to make the most of the opportunity.

Malcolm Hong Oct 27, 2020

Mentoring has long been a time-honored tradition to support professional development. At Zions Bank, it’s clear mentorship has a high return on investment: Of the participants who have gone through the bank’s program, retention rates are high and more than half have been promoted into higher-level roles.

Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson says he benefited from several mentors who played a pivotal role in his development, including Zions Bancorporation’s founder, Roy W. Simmons. Anderson credits his mentors for helping him get to where he is today.

Whether you find a mentor through an official work program or through an informal arrangement, it’s important to make the most of the opportunity.

Here are 5 tips to make the most of your experience with a mentor.

Mentorship tip #1: Identify what you want to learn

Mentors play a valuable role in supplementing the strengths you bring to the table. Although a mentor can enhance your strengths, it’s also valuable to have someone to help in areas where you’re struggling.

Be intentional in leveraging your mentor to fill gaps in your skillset. Before you first meet with your mentor, review their LinkedIn profile or professional bio to learn how they can support your areas of interest. You may even find their industry or nonprofit activities outside the workplace can help you learn more.

Mentorship tip #2: Play an active role in your own mentoring

It’s your job to manage the relationship with your mentor by defining your goals, seeking out input and developing a structure for your meetings. You may also want to proactively request job shadowing opportunities or introductions to others. It’s important to make this investment because in a mentoring relationship, you get out what you put in.

Playing an active role will help you leverage every minute with your mentor and focus your discussions on your goals, challenges and priorities.

Mentorship tip #3: Be curious

Being curious and asking questions will help you develop a more complex understanding of your topic or issue. A mentor can help deepen your knowledge if you bring the right questions to the table. Your mentor can also help you step out of your comfort zone as you explore these questions, which can expand your confidence and skill sets.

Mentorship tip #4: Be accountable

A mentor is making a significant investment by choosing to spend time on your professional development, and you demonstrate your appreciation by showing accountability.

It’s important to set expectations up front in your mentoring relationship. This will help you develop appropriate goals and key milestones to track. It’s also helpful to proactively walk away from a mentoring session with a list of actions to complete and report back on.

Mentorship tip #5: Give back to your mentor

Many successful mentor relationships flourish because both parties can give and take. Remember, there’s a lot you can both learn from each other. One approach you might consider is “reverse mentoring,” when the junior team member shares skills, knowledge and understanding with a senior colleague.

Finding a Mentor

If you’re interested in finding a mentor, you may want to consider an employer sponsored program, an online network such as Find a Mentor or programs hosted by your local Chamber of Commerce such as the Boise Metro Chamber’s b|wise program.

Malcolm Hong is Public Relations Officer for Zions Bank in Idaho. 

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