Practical analysis for investment professionals
17 March 2016

How to Be a Star Mentee

How to Be a Star Mentee

Mentoring engages individuals in one-on-one relationships that can accelerate professional and career development for both parties. In a previous post, I wrote about how professionals benefit from being mentors. More often than not, though, it is the mentee who seeks out the relationship and the opportunity to learn from the mentor.

So, what does it take to be the kind of protégé that a mentor is excited to help? Here are five must-dos for investment professionals interested in becoming star mentees.

1. Come with Clear Goals and a Commitment to Learning and Developing

Like every other career management strategy, starting a mentoring relationship requires you, as the protégé, to reflect deeply on your professional aspirations. You should be able to clearly express the immediate goals you would like a mentor’s assistance in achieving. Often, a good mentoring relationship will address a number of issues beyond whatever initial motivation sparked the relationship, so don’t worry that setting out specific goals at the start will limit your opportunity to learn from your mentor. Instead, recognize that coming to the table with a series of aspirations and a general commitment to learning and developing helps establish trust, mutual respect, and a path forward for the relationship.

What if you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not sure what my professional goals are or should be — that’s why I need a mentor in the first place. How can I come up with specific goals?”

If you have honestly given the matter due attention and reflection, and continue to be at a loss, perhaps your specific goal for the mentoring relationship could be to learn from your mentor what experiences and data points they used to arrive at their own professional goals. (If you are in this situation, I would also highly recommend the tools and exercises in Career Success: Navigating the New Work Environment to help you decipher what your professional aspirations are.) There is always a way to frame your specific initial goal for the relationship that demonstrates to your mentor that you are invested enough in the endeavor to clearly articulate its purpose.

2. Take Responsibility for the Relationship

Setting the initial goal of the mentor-protégé partnership is an essential first step in taking responsibility for the relationship. But there is more to do. As a mentee you should also take the lead in communicating your expectations about how the dynamic will progress. This could include establishing a mutual understanding of how often and in what contexts you will meet, what is or isn’t confidential, and what the relationship can realistically accomplish.

3. Respect Your Mentor’s Time

In a profession as demanding as investment management, there is no shortage of commitments that pull at someone’s time. If you’re going to ask for time and attention from a mentor, you need to respect every bit that they offer you. At minimum, this means:

  • Meeting at times and places convenient to your mentor.
  • Setting a meeting schedule well in advance.
  • Having and communicating an agenda for each meeting.
  • Coming to meetings prepared.
  • Addressing difficult situations head on. If you don’t think your mentor is helping you progress toward your goals, then give them that feedback.
  • Saying “Thank you.”

4. Follow Through

Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. Remember too that by initiating a mentoring relationship, you have made a commitment to seek honest feedback and thoughtfully consider and engage your mentor’s reasonable, relevant, and ethical advice. Following through means following the advice you are given and taking full advantage of the opportunities your mentor offers you. And, obviously, if you are concerned that the advice isn’t appropriate or is potentially unethical, communicate that to your mentor directly and promptly.

5. Pay It Forward

Mentors mentor in part because they want to make a difference — for their protégé and for their profession. It is rewarding to them when their advice and insights put you in a position to do the same for others. It exponentially increases the difference they can make. Carla Harris, a senior leader at Morgan Stanley and author of Expect to Win and Strategize to Win, has said that she doesn’t mentor people if she isn’t confident they will do the same for others. Even if your mentor doesn’t consider paying it forward essential for taking you under their wing, the odds are very good that doing so will make them glad they did.

If you have mentored others and have suggestions for additional ways someone can make themselves a more engaging candidate for mentoring, please share your experience and advice in the comments section below.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

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About the Author(s)
Julia VanDeren

Julia VanDeren, manager, career services at CFA Institute, serves as the subject matter expert in career management skills, curating and developing career resources for members and program candidates. Previously, she served CFA Institute as career services representative, managing the CFA Institute JobLine (now Career Center) and Career Centre (now Career Tools) resources. VanDeren holds a BA from the University of Virginia and an MPA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

2 thoughts on “How to Be a Star Mentee”

  1. Good reminder that it’s a two-way street.

    I’ve had a formal mentor once, and several informal mentors along the way.

    Fortunately I’ve since had the opportunity to switch places and be the mentor. It was a good experience and I’d do it again.

    My main pointer for mentees would be to show some appreciation for the time and effort a mentor gives you. A “thank you” goes a long way.

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