In season eight of Seinfeld, Jerry and George Costanza had the following exchange:
George: I still don’t understand this. Abby has a mentor?
Jerry: Yes. And the mentor advises the protégé.
George: Is there any money involved?
George: So what’s in it for the mentor?
Jerry: Respect, admiration, prestige.
George: Would the protégé pick up stuff for the mentor?
Jerry: I suppose if it was on the protégé’s way to the mentor, they might.
George: Laundry? Dry cleaning?
Jerry: It’s not a valet, it’s a protégé.
George was certainly not interested in being a mentor for the right reasons. Later on in the show, Jerry reluctantly mentors a fellow comedian. It was a bad match from the beginning, but part of the problem was the comic protégé did not know his roll. Just as there are Be-Attitudes for mentors, there are Be-attitudes for protégés.
• Be organized. Whether it’s your initial meeting with a mentor or your 15th, you need to have an agenda. You’re not just meeting to meet. This is a learning relationship. Be mindful of the mentor’s time. Don’t waste it by not being prepared. Ask what time is best for them and be flexible. Consider meeting before or after work, or during lunch. You are both setting time aside, so try to separate your mentoring sessions from the work day.
• Be eager to learn. As a protégé, consider yourself to be a ball of clay that is open to being molded and shaped over time. If you open your mind to learning, thinking differently and trying new things you might surprise yourself.
• Be receptive. Accept honest feedback and view it as an opportunity to improve yourself. Be receptive to change and your mentor can help you grow professionally.
• Be trustworthy. Trust is something that is hard to earn and easy to lose. Set ground rules up front that what is discussed in mentoring sessions stays in mentoring sessions – it goes in the vault. That is, unless you need help outside of the mentoring session and you ask your mentor to intervene.
• Be open to new ideas. You’ll have the opportunity to see things through the eyes of others. You are looking for perspective, and by considering different ways of doing things you’ll grow exponentially.
Now, armed with this knowledge you are ready to seek out your mentor. Let me know how your journey goes.