If you’re working with a mentor for the first time, you might be unsure about how to evaluate and apply all the advice that you receive. What I want to tell you here is that it is all up to you.
When I mentor someone, I say up front, “This is not about me. You should ignore anything I say or recommend that doesn’t fit your personality or focus. You should not worry about hurting my feelings.” Here are a few ways to figure out how you can use the advice that a mentor gives you.
First, don’t just do what I tell you to do. You should approach getting advice with the following six steps:
- Ask – know your focus and communicate your needs. Don’t expect to get good advice without having some idea of the goals you want to achieve.
- Listen – actively ask questions to understand the details and intent of any advice given.
- Consider – think of the desired and unintended consequences of actions if you applied a mentor’s advice to your situation.
- Choose – focus on what is right for you.
- Commit – make a plan and include how you will know if you are on-track.
- Do – implement your plans.
The second thing to know is that you shouldn’t just take your mentor’s advice and call it a day. The ideas and recommendations I offer as a mentor should be seen as seeds that a mentee will nurture and grow. That means that any advice you receive isn’t meant to be taken at face value. Conversations with your mentor are a starting point for further evaluation. Apply what will work for you or modify recommendations to fit your vision.
Finally, as much as I can help as a mentor, I cannot do it all. I may be an expert in a narrow field, and I don’t know everything. Get many perspectives by having more than one mentor. This will broaden your thinking and expand the scope of possibilities that suit your situation.
In my time supporting veterans through Veterati, my favorite mentoring relationship is a peer-mentoring relationship with a very intelligent and insightful veteran. Beyond the fact that the learning is mutual and I benefit from his perspectives, he embodies all three aspects of this essay. He applies critical thinking, understanding that his approach must be genuine and aligned with his own style. He demonstrates initiative and drive, coming up with new ideas and actively tests them. And he has reached out to different mentors so he can learn from various perspectives and select what he will implement.
Ultimately, you need to be committed to your plan. You need to own the reason you are implementing change, not simply mimic what worked for someone else. Take each bit of advice to inform your decisions to truly forge your own path.