There is a lot to be gained by both sides of a mentor/mentee relationship. For the mentee, he/she gains wisdom, insight, motivation and accountability. The mentor on the other hand, gains personal satisfaction from helping someone else, validation in who they are (it’s a huge boost to your self-esteem when someone you value asks you to be their mentor), and the privilege to synthesize their life experiences into life lessons they can pass on to others.
Mentor/mentee relationships are very valuable and its wise to have more than one mentor. But what should you ask yourself before you ask someone to be your mentor? Here are a few simple but important questions:
1. Is my prospective mentor the person that I want to be in 10-20 years?
Don’t ask someone to be your mentor if you don’t feel like where they are today is where you want to be tomorrow. If they don’t represent your aspirational values or goals, don’t pursue. Otherwise you are looking to establish a lame-duck mentor that won’t add value to you, and worst they won’t gain any personal satisfaction from mentoring you. Your wasting both you’re time.
2. Does my prospective mentor love/value me?
Asking someone to be your mentor is a pretty deep question. Just as you wouldn’t pull out a ring on the first date, asking someone to be your mentor without establishing a personal relationship is dangerous! Ask to meet for coffee a few times, see if there is chemistry or value to be added and satisfaction to be gained. If not, drop it. Asking someone you don’t know, or—more importantly—doesn’t know/value you, to be your mentor is asking for an empty mentor/mentee relationship.
3. Will I be proactive in this relationship?
Don’t pursue a mentor, if you’re not willing to put in the work. In all of my mentoring relationships where I am the mentee, I text/call and setup the coffee appointments and set the agenda in the meetings. I rarely ask my mentors to prepare an agenda or talking points, rather I come prepared with questions ready to delve into their wisdom. I’ve seen this played out on the flip side. One of my mentees did this for me recently, by sending a list of questions he had for me before our meeting as a way for me to better prepare without the stress of having to come up with content on my own. His hard work and forethought made it very easy for me as a mentor to serve him better.
Here’s one question you shouldn’t ask:
Does he/she really have time for me?
Let your prospective mentor decide if he/she has time for you. Sometimes we are too quick to answer for them, thinking there is no way someone this awesome has enough time for me. Chances are, if they value you or see potential in the mentor/mentee relationship, they will make time for you.