10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation With Your Mentor

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Having a successful and meaningful mentorship plays an integral role in one’s academic and professional development. While having a mentor can provide valuable insights and guidance, it’s important to be cognizant of how to communicate respectfully and effectively to make the most out of such an influential relationship.

With this in mind, below are 10 tips for having a better conversation with your mentor:

1. Establish a Positive Relationship with Your Mentor

The cornerstone of every successful mentor relationship begins with building trust, vulnerability and respect. Constantly strive to ensure that dialogue remains positive and set the tone of the conversation before any discussion actually takes place. Oftentimes, it’s best to start by expressing your gratitude for them taking the time to engage with you as well as give a brief explanation of what you’d like to discuss during the conversation.

It is also important to be open and honest with your mentor. Ask questions and be willing to take constructive criticism. This will help to build a strong relationship and ensure that you are getting the most out of the mentorship. Additionally, be sure to show your appreciation for your mentor’s time and advice. A simple thank you or a thoughtful gift can go a long way in showing your gratitude.

Finally, be sure to stay in touch with your mentor. Regularly check in with them and keep them updated on your progress. This will help to maintain the relationship and ensure that you are getting the most out of the mentorship. Additionally, be sure to stay in touch with other mentors and peers in your field. This will help to expand your network and provide you with additional resources and advice.

Learn more about how to build rapport with your mentor.

2. Ask Thoughtful Questions

Having meaningful conversations with your mentor should go far beyond simply getting basic advice or direction. It’s important to foster meaningful conversations with hypothesis-driven questions so you can gain insights from your mentor’s experience. Focused questions that delve into specific areas can open up thick layers of conversations which can help elicit longer, more insightful answers from your mentor.

When asking questions, it’s important to be mindful of the type of questions you’re asking. Try to avoid yes/no questions and instead focus on open-ended questions that will allow your mentor to provide more detailed answers. Additionally, it’s important to be respectful of your mentor’s time and not ask too many questions at once. Instead, focus on asking one or two questions at a time and then allowing your mentor to provide a thorough response.

It’s also important to be prepared for your conversations with your mentor. Before each meeting, take some time to think about the topics you want to discuss and the questions you want to ask. This will help ensure that you make the most of your time with your mentor and get the most out of your conversations.

Still stuck? Here are 70+ questions to ask your mentoring partner.

3. Prepare for the Conversation

Having a clear understanding of what topics are discussed or points of discussion are critical for any successful mentorship conversation. Spend time beforehand planning out questions and topics of discussions for the meeting so you can get the most out of it. Doing this will help ensure that the conversation does not stray off course and meander into topics that would otherwise not be of benefit for either you or your mentor.

It is also important to be prepared to discuss your goals and objectives for the mentorship. Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve from the mentorship will help you to focus the conversation and ensure that you are getting the most out of the experience. Additionally, it is important to be open to feedback and constructive criticism from your mentor. This will help you to grow and develop as a professional.

Be a top mentoring partner by learning about the agenda setting with the rule of three.

4. Create a Safe Space Between You

Your relationship with your mentor should be one that is devoid of judgement, especially when discussing difficult topics such as career doubts or academic struggles. Creating a safe space should create an environment where uncomfortable topics can be discussed openly without fear of judgement or looking down on the other, rather, a place for learning and growth.

Establishing boundaries and expectations from the start can help especially if your working environment is a stressful one. This may include setting a timeline for the mentorship, agreeing on the topics that will be discussed, and deciding on the frequency of meetings. This will help to ensure that both parties are on the same page and that the mentorship is productive and beneficial for both.

What’s most important, is ensuring that both parties feel comfortable and respected. This means being open to hearing one another’s thoughts and opinions, and be willing to provide honest feedback without judgement.

By creating a safe space, both parties can feel comfortable discussing difficult topics and can work together to find solutions. This will help to ensure that the mentorship is successful and beneficial for both parties.

Building a culture of psychological safety, is one of the most under-utilised People and Culture strategies that can have incredibly profound results not just on productivity but on DEI and belonging goals.

5. Be Open and Honest

Be frank about any difficulties or challenges you face. This is especially true if you hit any roadblocks during the conversation. It’s important to be confident and transparent with your mentor to ensure that the conversation remains fluid and doesn’t get stuck on the same topics. Additionally, don’t be afraid to share any successes, accolades or successes that you’ve experienced. After all, your mentor will be more driven to help you grow if they understand where you’re coming from.

It is also important to be open to feedback and constructive criticism. Your mentor is there to help you grow and develop, and they may have valuable insights that can help you reach your goals. Be open to their advice and be willing to make changes if necessary. This will help you to make the most of your mentorship and ensure that you are getting the most out of the experience.

Learn more about how active listening is a mentoring game-changer.

6. Listen and Take Notes

It’s easy to get preoccupied while discussing with your mentor, however it’s important to remain focused and attentively listen to their advice. Taking notes not only allows you to retain the knowledge shared by your mentor and aids in effective recall later on, but it also shows your mentor that you value their opinions and are taking them into account.

When taking notes, it is important to be organized and concise. Make sure to jot down key points and any questions you may have for your mentor. Additionally, it is helpful to review your notes after the meeting to ensure that you have captured all of the important information. Doing so will help you to better understand and apply the advice given by your mentor.

7. Respect Your Mentor’s Time

Time is all too valuable in a mentorship. Get to the point and stay on track by coming up with an agenda for the conversation before hand. This helps keep the conversation structured and avoids superfluous conversations which may rob you of your mentor’s precious time. Furthermore, display courtesy by being punctual and setting clear boundaries when having a conversation with your mentor. This helps ensure the conversation is focused, meaningful and within the limits of your agreed upon timeframe.

It is also important to be mindful of your mentor’s availability. If your mentor is unable to meet with you at a certain time, be respectful and understanding. Additionally, be sure to thank your mentor for their time and advice. This will show your appreciation for their help and will help foster a positive relationship.

Discover how you can be more present and intentional with your mentoring time.

8. Show Gratitude for Your Mentor

This one should go without saying: always show appreciation for your mentor. Making sure to acknowledge their effort and knowledge by expressing gratitude will not only encourage them to continue helping out as future conversations arise but it also displays humility on your part. As mentioned before, it is always good to express appreciation before diving into a conversation as well as offer thanks at the conclusion of the meeting.

In addition to verbal expressions of gratitude, it is also important to show your mentor that you are taking their advice and implementing it in your life. This could be as simple as sending them a follow-up email after a meeting to let them know how you have applied their advice or even sending them a thank you card. These small gestures can go a long way in showing your mentor that you value their time and effort.

Here are some practical ways to save a mentoring relationship that has stalled.

9. Follow Up After the Conversation

This is arguably the most important step after engaging with your mentor, as it allows you to show them that their advice was taken into account, as well as document what was discussed during the conversation. Sending follow-up emails not only serves as a reminder of what was talked about but also allows you to build on prior conversations by addressing any topics that may have been left uncovered during the discussion.

It is important to be timely here – try to send them a message within 24 hours of the conversation, as this will show your mentor that you are taking their advice seriously and are actively working to implement it. Additionally, make sure to thank your mentor for their time and advice, as this will help to foster a positive relationship between the two of you.

Better yet, if you’re using Mentorloop, log your meeting, update your goals and drop your meeting notes into your Loop. You’ll have a history of your mentoring relationship that you can call upon anytime.

10. Keep Your Mentor in the Loop

Staying in contact with your mentor is essential in order to foster a healthy relationship between both parties. Keeping them updated on your academic/professional progress is essential in order to increase their trust and build a powerful bond over time.

It is important to remember that your mentor is there to help you reach your goals and provide guidance. Make sure to keep them informed of any changes in your plans or goals, and be sure to thank them for their help and support. This will help to strengthen the relationship and ensure that your mentor is invested in your success.

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Emily Ryan
Emily Ryan
Head of Marketing at Mentorloop. Observing tens of thousands of mentoring relationships, she is passionate about helping people get the most from their mentoring experience. When not writing, you'll find her brewing beer or globe-trotting.

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