Skills to Become a Successful Mentee
Over our three years of engaging with hundreds of developers and mentors at Project Thrive, we’ve been able distill key skills needed for success. Mentorship is a two-way-street, and it’s super important that you take responsibility for your side as a mentee. There are some skills that both individuals need to cultivate, and some individual skills will help you be a great mentee.
Shared skills for a great mentoring relationship 🤝
Both partners in a mentoring relationship need to demonstrate certain key skills in order have a successful mentoring relationship. This shared core skill set includes:
- Active listening
- Ability to build trust
- Encouraging others
1. Active listening
Without active listening, your mentoring relationship will be built on shaky foundations. Mentorship is a two-way street, and when you listen and truly hear what the other party has to say, powerful things can happen.
As a mentee, active listening helps you to absorb the advice of your mentor. It also demonstrates that you value their time and input. Through active listening, your mentor can accurately gauge where you need input or guidance on solving a problem yourself. The practice will also help them get to know you better, and understand how you approach problems and opportunities. All of these insights make for a more fruitful relationship.
So, what is active listening about? Here are some tips:
- Make sure you don’t interrupt
- Pay attention to body language and other non-verbal signals
- Don’t assume knowledge or intent
- Reserve judgement and make sure you’re not imposing your own ideas and fixes onto the other person
You can also work on a few behaviours that help to show the other person that you’re paying attention to them. That includes maintaining eye contact, and other physical signs of engagement like nodding your head or smiling.
A good practice for active listening is to summarise the crux of what’s been said in the conversation and jot down a few notes to follow up on.
2. Building trust
A mentoring partnership requires commitment and mutual trust. The stronger this foundation is, the more you’ll get out of your relationship.
These are our top tips for building trust in a mentorship relationship:
- Be accountable: If you make a mistake, that’s ok. But you need to be honest about it and work to resolve it. If you make a promise, see it through.
- Keep confidences: Where confidences are respected, trust can follow. Mentorship can take us to a place of vulnerability and both parties need to feel safe enough to share their struggles openly.
- Respect boundaries: You need to establish expectations and clear boundaries in a mentorship pair, and respecting these is key to success.
3. Encouraging one another
Mentors and mentees need to support each other. That’s part of what makes mentorship so powerful. By following up on a particular piece of advice or simply saying thank you for their efforts, you can help your mentor maintain their enthusiasm and motivation for mentorship.
Skills for Mentees 🚀
There are also specific skills that mentees need to demonstrate in order to be a great mentee. Mentees should:
- Be conscientious
- Follow through
- Show initiative
- Manage the relationship
1. Be conscientious
If you take the mentorship relationship seriously and make the most of learning opportunities, your mentor is going to love working with you.
You can demonstrate this to your mentor by using your newfound skills and insights and sharing how you did so with them, for example:
- If you practiced with a new coding language, talk about the process together.
- If your mentor shares any resources with you, make sure you put aside time to peruse these and remember to report back when you next meet and share your insights.
2. Follow through
Your mentor needs to know that you’ll keep your word when you make a commitment to show up, work on a project or try out a new skill. Ways to do this include:
- Trying extra hard to keep any agreements, or meet deadlines discussed with your mentor.
- Making sure you’re putting their suggestions into practice and feedback on how it went.
This shows you’re taking the relationship seriously and helps to build trust. If, for some reason, you’re unable to meet a deadline or make an agreed-upon commitment, do your best to flag this early.
3. Show initiative
In a traditional mentorship setup, mentors take the lead. But our experience is that a hierarchical mentorship can erase opportunities for development. We see better results when mentees take charge of the relationship and drive the process forward themselves. To show initiative, make sure you do the following:
- Ask questions to ensure clarity.
- Do further research on topics covered and bring these in for discussion.
- Identify new skills and approaches that’ll take you out of your comfort zone.
- Practice lateral thinking and look for ways to use your mentor's advice in new and creative ways.
- Come prepared for all sessions with questions, ideas or points where you’d like input from your mentor.
- Take note of any goals or development areas you’ve discussed with your mentor, and make a point of following up on these and providing feedback on your progress.
4. Manage the relationship
As we mentioned above, we’ve seen greater success where a mentee takes responsibility for managing the mentorship relationship. By driving the relationship forward, you’re practising accountability and are taking charge of your own growth.
Here are a couple of tips to do this well:
- Communicate openly and proactively.
- Make a point to note when you want to check in on certain goals and development areas.
- Discuss how often you’d like to meet, where and for how long.
- Come prepared for all sessions.
- To set up a strong process for check-ins, you can prepare a meeting agenda in advance and share it with your mentor so you both have clear expectations.