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It Takes Two: How to Get the Most out of Having a Mentor

It Takes Two: How to Get the Most out of Having a Mentor

For some reason, the idea of a mentor seems like an old fashioned concept doesn’t it? Some thing that might create mental images of knights and squires, or even Jedi, certainly not something that can work in contemporary working relationships. Sure, maybe your guidance counselor or sports coach was kind of a mentor, but that was years ago…

In education, it is recognized that teaching a student one to one can be more effective than in a traditional classroom setting. Here a teacher can model the teaching to their student instead of fitting it around a group. They can work with their student better. Mentorship works the same way.

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Mentoring today helps you to reach the success you deserve.

More and more businesses are beginning to realize the many benefits of establishing mentor and mentee relationships as a great method of career development, and indeed personal development in their employees. 71% of Fortune 500 companies[1] use some kind of mentorship system in their organisations.

On a personal level, having someone on your back who knows the challenges and pitfalls of a trade or business can help you reach a level of success that would otherwise be harder to achieve. There have been many articles and pieces[2] written about how mentoring can help women and minority employees reach the recognition and success they deserve that may have been otherwise harder out of reach for them.

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Both the mentor and the mentee can benefit from a strong mentor relationship.

It would be easy to think that only the one being mentored will be benefiting from the mentor/mentee relationship. Perhaps, to the more experienced mentor, having to show someone the ropes of a profession might even be a burden. However, with a strong mentor relationship both parties can benefit really well.

Most obviously, fulfilling the role of a mentor can foster great communication and leadership skills that can benefit the mentor long after they stop being someone’s mentor.[3] In this way it is in their best interest to be a good mentor.

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Here’re some hallmarks of a great mentorship.

So, having a great mentor is clearly a hugely beneficial experience. However how can these benefits be attained? What does a good mentorship actually look like?

  • A great mentor will be committed to their mentee, and likewise the mentee will be committed to their mentor.[4] Because of this, both parties will soon get to know the other’s strengths and weaknesses. With this your mentor will be able to push you in a direction that works best for you.
  • Someone who has been around for a while, has achieved success in your field, will invariably know people. People that would otherwise be out of reach to you if you didn’t have a mentor. That old saying “it’s all about who you know” can be pretty accurate. With a mentor, not only do you know someone worth knowing, you know someone who is working hard to make sure you achieve success.
  • A mentor will be able to give you perspective. Its easy to lose a sense of purpose and direction stuck in the old 9-5, the drudgery, the grind. A mentor will be able to show you not only how to get the best results from your current working patterns, but also, by merely being there, will show you where your current path may take you.

Be a great mentee if you want to get the most of your mentorship.

Even if having a mentor sounds like something you might be interested in, it can sometimes be hard to know how to best fulfill your end of the bargain, and what you can do to to get the most out of your mentor. Here are a few pointers to get you on the right track.

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  • Be open to criticism and advice, or, better still, seek out further advice and criticism from your mentor.[5] Without such information, there is little real use in having a mentor, and also improvement, and with it, advancement, is much harder to achieve.
  • Follow up on their advice. It goes without saying that they are your mentor because they have much more experience and knowledge of your field. As such, each piece of advice is a gift.
  • Consider other mentors.[6] Though in this article I have used the singular term “mentor”, it is not unheard of to have more than one. This both takes the pressure (and extra workload) off a single person. It will also give you access to a deeper pool of knowledge and experience (assuming mentors are interested in sharing with you).
  • Don’t pressure them, in particular work on their terms. Remember that they are doing you a service, though they are your mentor, they are almost certainly doing this as a volunteer.[7] If you start to become a drag, or get in the way of their work and their own advancement and goals, (it’s possible they are someone’s mentee too!) then you may soon find yourself without a mentor, or have one who doesn’t care much about you or your success. Both can be deadly.

Reach out to the potential mentors skilfully.

All the above is all well and good, but you want to know how to actually get a mentor. The reality of the matter is, it’s tricky. Firstly: You should consider someone in your business or field that you want to emulate, someone reachable.

Secondly: Do not, I repeat: do not ask them to be your mentor if they’ve never heard of you.[8] Unfortunately this is the hardest part, but it makes sense. If they don’t know you or are not on their radar at least. Then you’re just a stranger.

Thirdly: Find ways you can help them out, this could be something as simple as retweeting their blog a bunch of times, or it could be something as complicated as getting them new work or clients (if that applies). It’s always a great idea to network in whatever situation or business, so at the next company party or mixer, totally attend and see where things go.

Reference

More by this author

Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

1. Find Your Good Reasons

Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

2. Make It Fun

When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How can I enjoy this task?
  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

4. Recognize Your Progress

Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

5. Reward Yourself

This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

Mix and Match

Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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