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Tips from Mentor Scout’s mentors of the year

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Mentoring can be a difficult relationship to navigate for both mentors and mentees, but there are several steps that participants can take to ensure that they get the most out of the relationship. Finalists for Mentor Scout‘s Mentor of the Year award recently talked with Nobscot CEO Beth N. Carvin about some things to keep in mind when working on establishing a good mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is a two-way street
The mentor and the mentee each have responsibilities when it comes to building a good relationship. “My expectation is there is an open and trusting dialogue up front,” said UTC Aerospace Systems’ Samantha Stovall, recipient of the 2012 Mentor of the Year award. Stovall said she tried to set expectations up front and establish open communication right away with her mentee, Danielle Wilke. She said Wilke was expected to compile a list of her five- and 10-year goals, her strengths and weaknesses and professional issues she wanted to work on, while Stovall came up with exercises for Wilke to do and books for her to read.

“The most important aspect is that each side must have some degree of commitment to the relationship and willingness to truly participate in the mentorship,” Carvin said in an e-mail interview. The commitment is especially important for the mentees, who must make sure they regularly schedule meetings with their busy mentors.

“I am there for them, but it is their responsibility… to get on my calendar,” Mentor of the Year finalist Judy Novak of Xerox said.

A successful mentorship requires planning
Mentees should go to meetings with their mentors prepared and have some kind of structure in mind, according to Timothy Lamendola of Covance. “There was a lot of talking on my end in the beginning,” he said about starting a relationship with his mentor. They spent a lot of time mapping out the mentee’s priorities and what specific training he would need to achieve his career goals.

“It is their time that is a gift to you, so use it wisely,” said Novak’s mentee, Jennifer Allen. “Have a clue what it is you want to accomplish.”

Allen said she and Novak spent time discussing short- and long-term goals, looking at members of the Xerox organization whose positions Allen might be interested in within the next five to 10 years, and what things they had in common.

According to Stovall, having and keeping a focus during meetings with Wilke was an important part of their relationship. “I wanted to make her realize her strengths and build on her strengths,” Stovall said. “I try to keep conversations focused on her and what she needs to do and not worrying about other people or situations.”

Mentorships should benefit both the mentor and the mentee
The mentors stressed that relationships with their mentees should always benefit both parties involved, and Novak said that if a relationship isn’t working out, that it’s OK to look for another one that does. “It’s great to make a new friend, but the most successful mentorships are about more than that,” Carvin said.

Stovall and Novak said that experiencing successful mentorships early in their careers made them want to become mentors themselves. Stovall said Mentor Scout’s award program helped her realize that Wilke recognized a lot of things about her that she wasn’t aware of. “I recognize that mentoring is a great accomplishment. … I learn as much from the mentee as I do in other things,”┬áStovall said.

“You really get as much out of it as you put into it,” Wilke said.