Mentoring Advice: How to Be a Great Mentee (and How to be a Great Mentor)

Mentoring Advice for WomenI was thinking recently about the different mentors I’ve had over the years — as well as the different mentees — and I started wondering: what are best practices on both sides of the relationship? How can you get the most out of your mentor-mentee relationship?  What’s the best advice for how to be a great mentee — and on the flip side, what’s the best advice for how to be a great mentor? In general what’s the best mentoring advice out there? (Do you have different mentoring advice for women than you do for men?) I’d love to hear your thoughts on the mentor-mentee relationship in today’s open thread.

For my $.02, these are my tips on how to be a great mentee:

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Networking In Your Niche — But Outside Your Company

Networking in Your Niche - But Outside Your Company | CorporetteWhat’s the best way to network in your niche and with experts in your field — but outside your company?  How can you find these experienced professionals, and how should you reach out? Can you find a mentor outside your own company? Reader M wonders:

I just landed a job in a field I’m excited to be in, and am looking to make the most out of it. However, I am the only one in my office who is responsible for this specific subject matter. While my managers help me out whenever they can, the only other person who has similar exposure to this type of work is based at our overseas office. There are a number of professionals based in my city who are experts on this particular subject matter, and I would love to meet them and perhaps find a mentor in this field. However, since my office is based a bit outside of the city and I work long hours, I’m not exactly in the position to meet up with someone for a weekday lunch or coffee. How can I start to form relationships with experienced professionals in my field when my only free time is on nights and weekends? There are only a very limited number of conferences and events that I know of, so I thought it might be worthwhile to reach out to someone directly. Thoughts?

What a great idea, Reader M — networking with other people in your niche is going to allow you to accelerate your learning, have someone else to bounce ideas off of, and even give you some visibility in the field and hopefully the means to move to other companies if and when the time is right. Networking when you’re junior takes some finesse, and maybe I’m overcomplicating your particular situation — you can always just call the local experts you know of and ask to take them to breakfast, of course! — but my concern is that a cold call would seem either like you’re job searching, or possibly (depending on the field) like you’re trying to get intel on how Company X does its work so you can copy it for your own company. However it’s interpreted, it might raise eyebrows with the expert you’re calling as well as with your company.  (One option that might bypass this: ask your overseas colleague if they have any local-to-you contacts in your field who you should know, or what local groups they recommend joining and who is in charge of them — and then ask if you may reach out using your colleague’s name.)  So, instead, my approach would be to focus on getting involved in associations and clubs within your field — this will put you in the right position to meet the experts at an association event.  If there are no local events, your involvement in the association still gives you a good reason to reach out to the experts — interview them for the association’s newsletter, or set up a local event yourself.  (It also gives you a good reason to leave work early, within reason — having an industry meeting once a month or once a quarter is generally accepted and encouraged by employers. I’ve also mentioned my love of breakfast meetings for networking — it’s often more acceptable to come an hour late to work rather than leave two hours early, but obviously, you have to know your own office here.) SO: Some ideas on how to get involved:

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Feeling Jealous of a Younger Colleague

Feeling Jealous of a Younger ColleagueWhat should you do if you’re feeling envious of a colleague who’s younger than you, seemingly unappreciative of the opportunity you’re giving her, and also — in your opinion — inappropriately flirty at networking events? Reader J wonders:

I’m a 40 yr old business development manager at an engineering firm. I’ve formed a group of female colleagues that helps with networking and business that’s getting notice in my city (like a Stiletto Mafia). A few months ago one of the key ladies in my group invited my junior engineer in my firm to join.

This engineer is funny and smart but also a gorgeous 24 yr old. Now I am torn between wanting to be a mentor and jealousy. I am jealous that she has access to this group of high powered ladies that are my friends and doesn’t seem to grateful that I’m including her. This engineer also occasionally helps with networking. It’s frustrating to attend a business event while these men are flirting with her. She isn’t overt, but she is aware of her looks and plays them up.

I’d like to drop her from the group and ask her to focus on current clients vs networking. Am I being a hypocrite?

I think you’re being honest, Reader J — a lot more than most people would be in person. I don’t think this is unusual, though; I think a lot of younger women alienate good mentors by being too entitled (like the reader who expected her boss to help her network) or arrogant at work, or, here, too focused on other parts of life like flirting. (We have offered some tips in the past on how to network with older women that may help younger readers here!)

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Alumni Mentoring and Networking: What Works, What Doesn’t

Alumni Mentoring and Networking | CorporetteHave you found great mentors through alumni events? What is the best alumni event (or networking event in general) that you’ve ever attended? Have you done alumni mentoring, on either side? I attended a great Northwestern networking and mentoring event last week through an alumnae group I’m involved with, Council of 100, and in our small group sessions the topic got around to general networking events organized by the school — what NU was doing that was good, what it was doing that was bad, and so forth. To be honest, neither of my institutions — Northwestern and Georgetown — have really great alumni networking systems in place. Students reach out to alumni for informational interviews, but there is no established system (at least that I’m aware of) for students to discover alumni that may be off the beaten path (like, say, me). One of the great ideas I thought we came up with was to have an alumni database organized not just by company, but by favorite professor or class at the college — then you could look up people who were like you and see what paths their careers had taken.

Anyway, I’m curious, ladies — have you found mentors through alumni events? What is your school doing right (or wrong)? Are you involved in alumni events?

(Pictured: Board of Governors Dinner, May 2010-2, originally uploaded to Flickr by Alan C.)

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Networking with Older Women

how to network with older womenReader R has a question that goes pretty well with our discussion of networking with older men — how to network with older women. Here’s the question:

I’m a 24 year old summer clerk with a public defender’s office. I got the gig by networking through my friends; specifically, by getting to know their mothers and fathers who work in the legal field. Now, however, I’ve gotten to become friends with my friends’ parents and their colleagues, who are in their 40’s and 50’s. Do you have tips on navigating the waters of friendship with women who are quite literally old enough to be my mother? I’m frequently invited to lunches and happy hours with them and I always accept the offers and enjoy my time, but I’m curious as to what tone I should be striking. They always address me and treat me as a colleague, and I’m frequently told I act like I’m 30 (in a good way), but I want to keep fostering these friendships in an appropriate way.

It sounds to me like you’re doing a great job and don’t really need any advice! For my $.02, here are some thoughts: [Read more…]

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