Meeting your mentor for the first time can be a daunting prospect. Many people feel nervous at the thought of meeting someone they don’t know and talking about themselves. Others feel inferior to their mentor, owing to their deficit in experience. For most, taking on a mentor is a leap of faith; they believe in the idea of mentoring, but have no idea what to expect from the person they have been matched with. With that in mind, here are my 5 tips to help you approach the first meeting with your mentor – and make it a success.
There’s no point in turning up to any meeting with your mentor, never mind the first, not having prepared beforehand. For your first meeting, it’s a good idea to find out more about your mentor before you meet. Read their profile on our mentoring portal, check out their social media activity on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook etc and why not Google their name too? This way, you can get a better idea of how they can help you and you’ll find out a few things that could help you make conversation with them in those first awkward minutes.
After that, you need to sit down and think about what you want from the relationship and what you want from this first meeting. Jot it down – and there’s your meeting agenda. You lead the meetings with your mentor, so do this before every meeting to ensure you’re well prepared and will get the most out of your interaction.
2/ Observe meeting etiquette
Whether you’re new to business meetings or not, you need to observe some basic etiquette.
First, make sure you confirm your meeting. That includes the date, time and a location that you are comfortable with. Re-read the emails from your mentor to ensure that they have understood clearly and test your own understanding too – there’s nothing worse than turning up to meet your mentor at a Starbucks to find out that they are sitting in the Starbucks on the other side of town! You can also use our meeting tool in the mentoring portal if you like. Always confirm again the day before too, just in case anything has changed.
If you need to cancel, do so by offering your mentor as much notice as possible – though you really should try to avoid cancelling wherever possible. Finally, be on time! Your mentor is highly likely to be offended if you are late and that’s not a good way to start a relationship.
If this all seems like common sense, that’s because it is! You’d be surprised how many people fail to follow these basic rules though – there’s no worse a way to introduce yourself and set the tone for the relationship.
3/ Get to know your mentor/build the relationship
It’s a good idea to get to know your mentor before you start to talk about your business. Find out who they are and let them find out about you too. In doing so, you’ll get a much better idea of their experience and their skills and how best they can advise you. You’ll also value their opinion more if you get to know them before seeking their advice.
Remember that you need to build a relationship with them in order to get the most out of mentoring and that takes time – be patient!
4/ Agree on some ground rules
Developing a relationship doesn’t mean you have to share everything though! Agree on subjects that can be discussed and those that can’t. Agree on when to speak and meet and when would be inappropriate. Some mentors might not like to talk at weekends, while others prefer it.
5/ Help them understand your business
Finally, the most important thing is that you let them explore your business thoroughly! You can’t expect your mentor to be effective if you’re unwilling to share information that might be important. This goes back to my earlier notes about building the relationship with your mentor and getting to know them. The more comfortable you are in their company, the more you trust them, the easier this part gets, so give that time to work before you get down to the details!
Remember, your mentor’s role is to help you find the answers to your questions yourself, not to hand them to you on a plate.
In Richard Branson’s opinion, mentoring is “the missing link between a promising business person and successful business person”. Experience shows that if you reach out to your mentor as soon as possible and make the first meeting happen, the relationship – and therefore your business – is far more likely to succeed. So, what are you waiting for?!