Your first mentor meeting should accomplish three simple goals for both mentor and mentee:
Whether you’re the mentor or the mentee, exactly how you accomplish these goals in your meeting is up to you. But for your first mentor meeting, it’ll help to have some best practices to lean on.
So in this post, I’ll review, from both perspectives, what you’ll need to do to get the most out of your first mentor meeting.
Let’s get to it.
If you’ve read our blog before, you probably know how vital meeting prep is. With your first mentor meeting, this is as true as ever, especially for the mentee.
It’s good etiquette for mentees to make things easy on the mentor. For example, as the mentee, it’s on you to make sure the mentor has—at least—your resume and a professional summary. It’s also on you to give structure to the meeting and the relationship.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everything’s on the mentee. Instead, mentors and mentees should work together to ensure meetings are productive. But the general expectation is for mentees to take the lead in doing the legwork of scheduling meetings, outlining agendas, etc.
Regardless of who’s taking the lead, though, your first mentor meeting agenda should flow roughly like this:
Assuming things go well, you can conclude your meeting by scheduling the next one.
Of course, this list is just a rough structure for your meeting. And you’ll need to fill it out based on your situation. So in the next few sections, we’ll go into more detail on building rapport, mentoring topics, and setting expectations.
Mentee-mentor relationships work best when there are openness and transparency. But it’s hard to be open and transparent before you’ve built trust.
People tend to trust the people they like and know. So dedicate most of the time in your first meeting to getting to know each other. Even if that means delaying pressing work or career issues you want to talk about, it’ll benefit you in the long run.
One of the easiest ways to build rapport is for the mentor and mentee to swap professional stories.
Most people enjoy telling their professional stories, especially to an attentive audience. Plus, mentors and mentees both benefit.
Mentees gain valuable insights from a different, more experienced perspective. And mentors get to know their mentees so they can figure out how to best tailor their advice.
Depending on time constraints, you might not get into specific mentoring topics in your first meeting. But you—as the mentor or the mentee—should be prepared with at least one general topic area you’d like to discuss.
For mentees, the choice of mentoring topic flows directly from their goals. For example, maybe you need help figuring out how to develop your skills to make the next career step. If that’s the case, you’d want to cover skill-related topics.
For mentors, it may be easier to choose topics once they’ve gotten to know their mentee. But that doesn’t mean mentors can’t come to the first meeting with some ideas.
As a mentor, think about what you’ve experienced and seen. Merely giving your perspective on the industry or a specific job role can be invaluable for a less experienced mentee.
For more ideas, look through the next two sections, which provide several mentoring topics and sample questions for both mentor and mentee to consider for discussion:
In the Harvard Business Review, Mark Horoszowski recommends that mentees create a structured accountability process. This, he explains, could be a simple one-page mentorship agreement that lays out meeting frequency, length, and relationship duration.
Horoszowski suggests this step once you’ve had at least one meeting. But your first meeting can set the stage for your meeting agreement, helping to ensure it’s well-received.
So, as a mentee, start setting expectations by making a clear ask that shows your mentor you’re looking for more than a single meeting.
Horoszowski suggests something like: “I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Would it be okay if I followed up with you again in one month after I make some progress towards my goals?”
You can deliver this message in person, assuming it goes well. Or, you can follow up via email.
The good news on meeting day is that all that’s left to do is relax, get to know your mentor or mentee, and discuss each other’s expectations.
With a structured approach to building rapport, setting expectations, and discussing mentoring topics most relevant to you, you’re ready for your first mentor meeting.
Once the meeting is finished, mentees should thank their mentor and follow up on next steps.
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