I saw a tweet where someone said mentorship doesn’t work in Nigeria. Or something along those lines, and I thought it was a dangerous untruth. I know many Nigerians who have benefitted from mentorship right here in the country. And I am one of them. I wrote about it here.
Mentorship is a professional relationship in which a more experienced person (the Mentor) guides another (the Mentee) with the goal of boosting the Mentee’s growth. Now that we have the definition out of the way, I’ll say quickly that mentorship helped me grow quicker than I would have otherwise. Having someone who has walked a path guide you is far better than figuring out the pitfalls and grey areas by yourself.
So now that we know mentorship actually works, here are a few things you should know/do before you get a mentor.
Know What and Whom You Want
This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve had people tell me they want a job or mentor without knowing why they want it or what they would like to gain from it. Please know what you want from the mentorship relationship. That way, your mentor knows how to guide you properly.
Knowing whom you want as mentor is connected to knowing what you want out of mentorship. Not everyone can mentor you, even if they are in the same sector or have the career trajectory you’d like. Besides looking out for their career-traits, also look out for their personality traits and their willingness to mentor you.
Be ready to learn and work. Don’t expect to be spoon-fed everything. Taking initiative will help you get the best out of mentorship (and life, TBH). Do assignments/tasks if assigned. No one wants to waste his or her time giving advice that won’t be taken. If you think it’s not right for you, communicate so or seek clarification but don’t just ghost on tasks/commitments.
It may seem like you have nothing to offer someone who is ahead of you career-wise but that’s untrue. When you approach it as a give-and-take relationship, don’t be surprised to find that your mentor comes to value your perspective on issues. It may be something as simple as sharing your insights about the demographic you fall into, sharing information about things your mentor is unfamiliar with—yes, there will be some areas in which you know more than your mentor. Could be as simple as how to use a certain app or insight on how the demographic you fall into thinks/behaves.
Do not abuse access. Do not abuse privilege
This one is worth being put in all caps because it’s so important. Remain respectful and avoid doing anything that abuses the access your mentor will give to you. This could be anything from calling at inappropriate hours to going behind their back to reach out to people you met through them.
When you want to do such things—it can be for valid reasons—ask permission! Your mentor is not your PA, so don’t expect him/her to read your every proposal, workshop every idea you have etc. S/he may choose to do it, but don’t feel entitled to it.
Understand how s/he works and try to fit your needs around it. Keep in mind that your mentor is probably busy, so reach out to set up meetings and don’t take it personally if it takes a while to get a response or meeting date. Finally, your mentor is human so be genuinely interested in how they are doing.
What else do you think you should do before getting a mentor, or what would you like to know about mentorship?