Being a not-knower of many things, I approach learning with great gusto!!
I love books, blogs, articles, podcasts, and chatting with people to understand different perspectives; making me (in my humble opinion) a pretty good candidate for a mentee to mentor relationship.
So let me take you back to “2017 Goodo” and how she found her mentor.
I’d recently joined Readify (now Telstra Purple) and was keen to immerse myself in the tech community. Being someone who impulsively makes decisions; I booked myself in to attend a Rails Camp but then immediately spiralled into full blown imposter syndrome seeing as I had no idea how to code. To add on, I was at post work-drinks having all the beverages instead of going to bed early and reading beginner coding books..
“This is fine”, I whispered to myself over and over again the night before I was supposed to rock up with my sleeping bag and meet my fellow campers.
My mentor to be — Andrew Best (Besty) noticed I was looking a little squeamish. As I hyper-ventilated into my sauvignon blanc, I explained my imposter conundrum. Besty said “Easy, I’ll teach you how to code”. I store file clicked this and then went to Rails Camp. (Side-note, the Ruby community is amazing and the nicest bunch of people you’ll ever meet. Nothing to be afraid of 😅).
The following week, Besty was there “Let’s do it, Goodo”. And although I was absolutely high pitch whimpering on the inside, our mentoring sessions turned out to be an absolute career game-changer for me. Here are some of my lessons learned….
Finding the right Mentor
Firm but fair, but someone who manages your confidence level. This is an investment into both of your time so don’t waste your precious learning minutes with someone who’s just going to pat you on the back. You’re doing it to challenge yourself and grow, be in this mentee to mentor relationship with someone who will cultivate that for you.
We tend to gravitate towards people who are just like us, namely affinity bias (something we do unconsciously most of the time). It’s important that we vibe with our mentor/mentee, but keep an open mind and push yourself to find someone unlike you. There will be lessons here for both of you.
Put your hand up if you don’t get it
If you don’t understand something they’re explaining, tell them. Don’t nod and pretend you do. They’ll know, ask you to explain it back to them and then you’re both left staring blank faced at each other.
If you still don’t understand; ask them to explain it differently.
As a mentor, they’ve also accepted the responsibility of coaching you. It’s up to them to find a way to get the learning across to you in a way that is consumable.
Besty eventually learned to communicate to me in Mario Brother metaphors — nailed it!
How to be a good mentee
You better bl**dy do your homework. No one wants to be on the opposite end of that raised eyebrow..….
Don’t waste your or their precious time with something you could google. On the flip side if you’ve googled something and you don’t understand, then get them to explain it.
Don’t get too overwhelmed with the particular strength that you’ve chosen your mentor for. Yes, they are likely absolutely excellent in their chosen space, but you’re awesome at stuff too! It’s just different stuff to your mentor. I’m quietly confident that Besty can’t crochet pot-plant warmers 😏
Also, you’ll end up teaching them stuff too, like patience.
This is actually an art. Can you take on feedback? Will you listen? Will you do the work? Can you self-reflect? If you say no to any of the above, neither you or the mentor will achieve your goals and you’ll both waste your time.
Mentors are human too
They’re not perfect either, like that time I was managing a Telstra Purple booth at a local community event. Unbeknownst to me, Besty had already given away all my merch at an entirely different event. This was the only time I’ve ever called him, Andrew. However, like the good mentor he is, simply suggested this was a good opportunity for me to use my problem solving skills to find new merch .. 😏
Most importantly if you do get the secret sauce right and lock down that perfect mentor; the relationship will always be there. Like for example, right now where I’ve asked Besty to collab on a blog with me even though we no longer work together. You can find Besty’s companion to this post here 👇
(pic sourced from https://www.success.com/how-to-excel-as-a-mentor-or-mentee/)