to go out and be proactive, listen to the feedback that
you are receiving from others, and maybe that can
help direct who could possibly be your next mentor.”
Top 50 Tip: All of the Top 50 companies have training for mentors.
2. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
While your first instinct might be to find a mentor
who is like you, stepping out of your comfort zone
and teaming up with someone from a different race,
ethnicity or gender can give you a competitive edge.
“It’s important to have an association with a
wide variety of individuals,” says Margot Copeland,
executive vice president and director, corporate
diversity and philanthropy with KeyBank, No. 33 in
the DiversityInc Top 50. “Different mentors bring different perspectives and possibly an orientation to life’s
circumstances that you have not had.”
This can be particularly beneficial if you are from a
traditionally underrepresented group. “Having someone who is different can certainly serve as a springboard for ideas,” says Copeland, who has had male
mentors and mentors from different racial groups.
“It’s good to have a wide berth of relationships in your
circle so you have different points of view when you
are trying to problem solve or access information.”
“As the work force grows increasingly diverse, it’s
important to learn to work with people different from
you,” says Ward-Gaffney. “If you feel that someone’s
race, age or gender is going to [keep] you … from being
transparent and being able to have a candid, authentic
relationship, then perhaps you’re not ready at that moment in your career to seek beyond your comfort zone.”
“Having a mentor is not so much about having
someone who looks like you,” says Brown. “It’s more
about what you desire to be, what you are looking for
and finding the right person. The relationship has to
be built on trust. But it begins with what you are trying to accomplish.”
Top 50 Tip: All of the Top 50 companies have mentor and mentee meetings more than once a quarter.
More than 60 percent meet more than once a month.
3. Set Goals
“You should have some forms or contracts where
you’re outlining what your goal is going to be, how
often and how long you are going to meet, and how
you will handle sensitive information when it comes
up,” says Ward-Gaffney. “You cannot have two different agendas in a mentor-mentee relationship. You can
have two different people with two different thoughts,
and that’s wonderful, but really, it’s how you synergize
She also suggests taking time to think about the
areas in which you feel you need the most help and
to speak candidly about them with your mentor. “It is
your responsibility to communicate your expectation
and be willing to reciprocate,” she says.
Mentoring relationships are all about reciprocity.
It’s important to show your appreciation by holding
up your end of the contract and “giving upward feedback or coaching that could possibly help the mentor
affirm some things they are doing in their career,” says
Setting goals can also serve as the point of reference if the relationship begins to sour. “You’re breaking up with them based on the contract being broken,” says Ward-Gaffney. “Then it’s not as emotional
because this is what you’ve agreed to.”
Top 50 Tip: All of the Top 50 have measurable goals
for mentoring pairs.
4. Do Your Homework
It’s impossible to reap the benefits of having a men-
tor if you don’t take your mentor’s advice or follow
through on assignments. “If you [and your mentor]
have committed to a course of action, it’s important
to be prepared,” advises Ward-Gaffney. “Never, ever
should a mentee go to a mentor and say, ‘I really don’t
know.’ I personally don’t think that is acceptable. I
think it’s acceptable to say, ‘I don’t know, but I have an
idea and I would like to be able to share that with you
and get your insight.’”
Top 50 Tip: Ninety-six percent of the companies
on the Top 50 have a formal follow-up aspect of their
5. Be Respectful and Appreciative
A mentor takes time out of a busy schedule for you
and offers his or her expertise for your development.
“Showing up on time, being prepared, if you have
committed to a course of action, [and] coming in with
different ideas are all ways you can show your appreciation and be respectful of your mentor’s time,” says
As with any good relationship, nothing beats
saying “Thank you.” Let your mentor know how he or
she has helped you, and stay in touch, even after the
formal mentorship ends. A good mentor will become a
key member of your network.