Learning from Your Mentor
One of the things that drives a person to be a mentor is to be able to teach others what they have learned. When 20+ year employees are asked: “What are the most important skills that you use in your job?,” they will readily list very important skills. The skills they list are rarely ones taught in school. Then when they are asked: “How did you learn these skills?,” their typical response will be: “I learned from mistakes I made, and I learned from my mentor.” Obviously the more you can learn from your mentor, the better.
Here are guidelines on how to learn from your mentor.
- Make a list of things you want to learn. The best way to do this is to reflect on everyday experiences you have. Then recall those times when you thought to yourself: “How did she/he know how to do that?”
- Set up a time with your mentor when you can learn from your mentor. Ideally this will be a moment in time when both you and your mentor have more relaxed time (e.g. travel times, meals, down times, etc.).
- Have a number of catalyst questions to ask. Catalyst questions in this case are simply starting points. Often these questions will lead to a number of follow up questions.
- When you ask your questions, take notes. This will show your mentor that you are serious about learning from her/him.
- Find an opportunity to practice what you learned. Then send a note to your mentor about how you used what you learned. This will help reinforce your mentor’s interest in helping you.
- Then teach someone else what you learned. This is the best way to anchor what you learned in your mind.
You will probably find that the most important things that you learn in being successful will come through a process like outlined above.