As a Gen Y, I feel the need to continually prove to myself that I am ready to lead. To get myself out of that slump of in-action or self doubt I have a mentor on hand to either push me into action, call me on my bulls**t, and help me figure out the next steps I need to take.

Previously, we talked about finding a mentor ... but once we find them how do we ensure it is a long term relationship?

Building a mentor relationship is a continual pursuit of growth. I need to ensure I am getting as much out of the relationship, as they are putting in. It has taken a few meetings to really fully understand how a mentor can help in my pursuit of promoting young leaders in the aged and community care industry.  

I have had mentor relationships that don’t work. I have had plenty that have been one offs, and a few that continue to build as life long friendships.

So how do you get it right?

The best thing is to go into the meeting to explore how they can help you. Talk about the difficulties you are facing, where you want to be in five-to-ten years time, and get them to talk about themselves. Listen, absorb, and ask.

1. Test it out

A one off mentor meeting is great, you can set a particular topic and slam out the questions. If you connect on a personal level, you can meet up again - if not move on to the next one and find the fit that works for you.

If you are on your third meeting, you are usually on track to building a long term relationship. You can see how they help you grow, test the compatibility of your personalities, and start asking them some gnarly questions.

Remember that it takes time to build relationships and trust so don’t feel the need to rush the process. If at anytime you feel that their style does not suit the way you work, DO NOT feel obligated to continue. Your mentor is there to help YOU on YOUR path. 

I had a mentor recently who’s personality style was not suiting mine. We had talked about how we both wanted to work and communicate, but there was still a clash. I didn't feel we were moving forward. I took the initiative and decided to end that relationship. Remember it’s ok to take a while to find a fit that works.

2. Set expectations and goals

Talk to your mentor about how often you want to meet, how they like to communicate, and explore ways in which they can help.

I have a mentor that lives in Sydney, (I am in Perth). So we communicate infrequently by email, and once a month we meet over Skype. We talked about my business, what I was having difficulties with, discussed her expertise, and then developed ideas around how she can assist me.

We are still figuring it out, but I am really enjoying getting to know her, hear her ideas, and we are setting goals that are challenging (but achievable).

3. Appreciate them

Let them know they are helping. For example my mentor has challenged why I was NOT doing a task. Man, it was hard to see why I was not doing this, we talked it through, developed a few strategies, and I emailed to say thank you for pushing me. I am going to continue to show progress and email her every few weeks to tell her how I am going with this challenge.

We are also catching up when I am in Sydney later this year for a face-to-face meeting. I also follow her on social media, and comment on her linkedIn posts. Other ways to show appreciation to your mentor could also be hand written thank you notes, and emailing articles that you think they may find interesting … 

The initial stages of the mentor-mentee relationship are where you will make or break the relationship. Set expectations, talk about your goals, prepare to be challenged, and show your appreciation. Get it right, and you will have a mentor that supports you as you go from strength to strength.