How to avoid pissing off your mentor

Written by Paul on April 15th, 2008

Ben Casnocha wrote an interesting article on the six habits of highly effective mentees which is a great add-on to my previous post on goal buddies.

There’s no shortage of people hailing the benefits of mentors. There’s also ample advice on how to find mentors. Few talk about what to do once you’ve made contact with someone who wants to help you. You sit down to lunch with a potential mentor. What do you say? How do you act? How frequently do you follow up, especially if the person is busy and important?

Before you reach out to your goal buddy (you have one now, right?), make sure you keep a few things in mind (head over to main article to learn more about each):

  1. It’s all about the questions you ask.
  2. Have strong beliefs, weakly held.
  3. Have a long term perspective.
  4. Be open to topics not on your short term agenda.
  5. Follow up by showing interest in them (at least four times a year).
  6. Don’t make the mentor do the work.

Most importantly, don’t disrespect your mentor’s time. If they’re good enough to make you want them as your mentor, they’ve probably got a pretty busy schedule. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a call from a mentee that starts something like, “Hi, I’ve got a quick question for you!” There’s no such thing as a quick question – just don’t do it.

The best people I’ve ever mentored have been very good at sending me an email to schedule time for their questions. Once we’ve set that expectation of each other, I know that any random calls I get from this person is either going to be a simple “Hi, how’s it going?” or a real emergency.

The point is that your mentor wants to help you – do yourself (and your mentor) a favor by working with his schedule.

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2 Responses to “How to avoid pissing off your mentor”

  • Can you clarify what you mean by “Just don’t do it?” .. Don’t say “I have a quick question”? Or don’t call the mentor without making an appointment first?

    I think what you’re trying to say here is that “Respect your mentor, don’t waste his or your time”.

    — 04/16/08 at 8:21 pm

  • Yep, the overall gist here is to respect your mentor’s time. For me, I personally don’t like those “quick question” calls and I definitely prefer some level of scheduling – that helps me prepare and really give you my full attention.

    — 04/16/08 at 9:05 pm

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