Congratulations! You found a mentor who’s willing to work with you. They’re in an industry you want to know more about. You seem to get along. Now what?
Building and maintaining a relationship with your mentor is your responsibility. Let me say that again, it’s your responsibility. If you expect them to take the lead, you’re wrong. This is a time for you to take control.
Your mentor is investing their time in you. Think about it. You’re important enough for them to take time out of their busy lives to talk with you, offer advice, and share their school and career experiences. It’s important to respect that and put the effort into making that relationship as productive and professional as possible. You need to invest your time, too.
It’s discouraging when I meet students, offer to help open doors and lend advice, and then? Nothing. I never hear from them again. Do they really expect me to take the lead? If a student is interested in learning from my experience in school, successes, failures, and about the industry in which I work, than they need to take the initiative to contact me. If they wait for me, sorry, but it’s never going to happen.
What do I do?
The first thing you need to do is follow-up to schedule a meeting, whether it’s the first or the fifth. An email is appropriate. You would do the same when you want to schedule a meeting with someone you met networking. Be courteous, professional, and persistent. If your mentor doesn’t respond to you right away, don’t take it personally. They’re really busy. Remember? Wait a few days and give them a call. Try again if you need to. Trust me, they’ll notice that you’re making the effort.
Work around their schedule when scheduling the meeting. It’s not about being convenient for you. If you have to rearrange your schedule, then that’s what you have to do. Generally, an hour or so for a meeting is enough time.
What you get out of your mentor/mentee relationship is up to you. Each relationship is different, but there are some things every mentee can probably expect. Your mentor will share their academic and professional experiences, give you advice, possibly introduce you to other professionals, and maybe even provide some direction on getting into college.
If you’re thinking about going into marketing, for example, but don’t know the field, wouldn’t you want to learn more from someone in field? They’ll be able to provide you with information you’d never find in a book.
What should your mentor expect from you? They’ll expect you to ask intelligent questions, pay attention, take notes, and be respectful. So, what questions are you going to ask? Be prepared, because the first question they will likely ask you is, “What do you want from me?”
Show your mentor that you’re taking this seriously by investing your time into preparing questions. You’re there to pick their brain, so pick! Initial questions should be general. Where did you go to college? What was your major? Why did you pick that major? These will get the conversation going, which may go in a direction you never expected, and that’s okay. Conversations do that.
Over time, your questions can become more specific. Did your major prepare you for your career? Is there anything you wish you had learned in school, but didn’t? Did you have a mentor?
Here’s the question I know you want to ask, but don’t know how: How much do you make? Unfortunately, you can’t ask that question directly—it’s rude. Here’s how to ask: In a range, how much can someone expect to make in your field with your experience? You’re not asking for an exact amount, but a range. You can follow up with, how much could I expect to make in an entry-level position?
Get out there. Meet more professionals. Your mentor is out there. What do you want to know?