Hi friends, let’s talk briefly about mentorship and informational meetings – two tools that have been known to enhance and accelerate career progression. How do we maximize the value we derive from these?
In Excellence by Association ~ 1, I provided four relevant tips for relating with one’s excellence influencers and associates. Excellence by Association ~ 2 used a simple heat engine to illustrate that we must always be channels of good, and not reservoirs. In other words, lift as you climb. 😉 Remember to pay it forward.
In “Excellence by Association ~ 3”, I will like to provide five tips each for making the most of your mentoring relationships and your informational interviews.
In the past few years, I have actively invested in, and sought out career mentors. I have also participated in a good number of informational interviews. Without mincing words, I can tell you that I have received maximum value from these two forms of association.
According to a blog on World Education Services (WES), mentorship refers to a relationship where the individual with more experience, knowledge, and/or connection (i.e the mentor) passes along what they know to a “junior” person (the mentee) in a specific field. The mentorship relationship is usually intended for a given period of time say, 3 months or 1 year.
- Have a goal in mind: It is ALWAYS a good idea to go into a mentoring program with a specific goal in mind. For example, one of the mentorship programs I embarked on was during the time when I was targeting a certain professional certification. I had a set date in mind, and I got a mentor who had already secured that certification some years before. Most of our interactions during the period was centred on the goal. This made it easy to realize the target.
- Take ownership: As a mentee, it is your responsibility to show enthusiasm, suggest meeting times and initiate conversations with your mentor. Think of it this way; “This person has a wealth of experience or knowledge that I want to tap into during this mentorship. It is my job to make this happen.”
- Ask lots of relevant questions: Since you as the mentee are the driver of the relationship, maximize your communications by asking targeted questions. Ask questions targeted towards your goal. Ask questions related to their career successes and past mistakes. Ask for stories. Ask questions about the path they took to arrive to the heights they have reached. If you ever run out of what to ask, you may consult this Forbes article about “40 Questions to Ask a Mentor” and adapt the question(s) to your unique situation.
- Drop any entitlement complex: This should go without saying 😊 but just in case anyone missed the memo, 😉 please note that your mentor is not required to get you your dream job, land you a contract or ensure you pass your examinations. They do everything they do as an act of goodwill and frankly, some of the information or connections they will introduce you to will be invaluable in dollar amounts. Therefore, please do not approach your interactions with an entitlement attitude, or make uncomfortable demands of them. Be consistently pleasant and respectful.
- Contribute: Share what you know with your mentor. Whether it be a quote or a personal story, be assured that you also have something valuable to bring to the table. By remaining present and mindful, you may say something that will benefit your mentor themselves!
According to an article on the University of California Berkeley website, an informational interview is defined as an informal discussion that you have with someone working in an area of interest to you.
People take part in informational meetings for several reasons including:
- Their need to go into a new or unfamiliar career field,
- Seeking to understand the “day in the life” of individuals from a specific profession,
- Seeking to learn about the various career paths in a field,
- Research into the current trends and innovations in an area,
- Seeking to expand one’s professional network, etc.
Before the COVID pandemic struck, it was typical to schedule a chat over coffee with someone for informational meetings but thanks to God because post pandemic, we have all become more adaptable in our modes and media of communication.
Now you may comfortably conduct an informational interview via video-conferencing, by exchanging a thread of emails or even over a phone call! This flexibility enhances the ease and should encourage us to connect more.
Here are a few tips for optimizing your informational meetings:
- Use your network to expand your network: A couple of weeks ago, I reached out a friend to find out if she knew someone in a field that I wanted to learn more about. Surprise: She did! A few emails later, she had introduced us, and I had gotten insights into many questions that internet search engines could not have done justice to. Please note that as in the mentorship relationship, please remain respectful in your communications and refrain from making any uncomfortable demands. This will make your colleagues confident to connect you with others in the future.
- Conduct a personal mini-research before your meeting: This will help you clarify your thoughts and equip you with more streamlined questions to ask during the discussion.
- Ask LOTS of questions: Remember, the purpose of the meeting is to gather high quality information that will assist you in sound decision making. As such, come armed with your arsenal of questions. Ask questions based on your past research. Ask questions, even if you feel they don’t completely make sense. Remember, this person is knowledgeable on the subject. They just might figure out what you are or are not asking.
- Take notes: Ever heard the saying that “the faintest pencil is more powerful than the strongest memory?” It is no joke! Come prepared to the meeting with your physical or digital notes-taker. Your memory will thank you later! 😊
- Follow up your meetings with a thank-you note: After your session with the interviewee, send an email appreciating them for their time and assistance. Also, you may include about 2 action or summary points you identified during the conversation. It demonstrates that you benefitted from the interaction and it serves as a reminder to you as well.
I hope that this was helpful? What else have you tried in the past with mentors and interviewees? Cheers to more graceful and accelerated career progression. 🙏🏽
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people” – Eleanor Roosevelt “Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.” – Wisdom words The people you associate with can greatly influence you for excellence. […]
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