Opening Up to Your Mentor
A mentor can only be useful to you if you are completely open to him/her. This requires that you trust your mentor to keep your conversations in confidence unless you indicate otherwise.
There are some unwritten rules of mentorship that you should know.
- Should you wish to share sensitive information with a mentor, start the conversation by saying: “I ask that you treat the following information as confidential and not repeat it to anyone else without consulting me first.”
- You should not expect your mentor to honor your request for confidentiality should the information involve something that is illegal or unethical. In these cases, the way to start the conversation is as follows: “I have information to share with you that would put you in an uncomfortable position. If you want me to stop, please say so at any time. I also understand that you may need to act on what I’m telling you.”
- When you share sensitive information, try to give enough background as you think appropriate. Also try to be balanced in what you are sharing. What you don’t want to do is to give the impression that you are just whining or griping.
- Be prepared to accept tough advice. It doesn’t help if your response to your mentor’s guidance is one of making excuses.
- When your mentor gives you guidance, ask follow up questions. These questions are often a hypothetical nature (e.g. What should I do if…?).
- Be sure to follow up immediately with a genuine thank you. Then keep your mentor updated on the situation you discussed.
A valued mentor should respond to your openness in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Your mentor may ask you if he/she can help you by exploring your concerns with another person in a confidential manner. This is a very appropriate response. If your mentor ever violates your trust, you should pursue another mentor.