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

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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.

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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