The mentoring relationship is one that works both ways. It is not only the mentor who ensures that the relationship works well. The mentee has to do some of the heavy lifting, too.
Choose the Right Mentor
Choosing the right mentor is like finding the right employer. Your “interview” of the mentor may go on for some time, without the mentor even knowing it. Choose someone:
- who you can relate to
- who you are comfortable with
- who is willing to take the time
- enjoys mentoring
- is knowledgeable and experienced
If a mentor is assigned by the firm, consider whether the relationship works. If it doesn’t, then both mentor and mentee must be content to end the relationship knowing that it is not personal; it is just not the right “fit.”
This does not mean you should prepare for the mentoring session like you would prepare to meet a client or a witness. You should be prepared to discuss any issues that are coming up in your professional life or your personal life so that you can raise them with your mentor. What is going on with you that needs discussion or guidance?
Appreciate the Relationship
First, know that there is a time commitment for both the mentor and the mentee. Be sure to take the time for meetings with your mentor but understand that you cannot monopolize your mentor’s time.
Second, listen to and appreciate the advice, but know that it is just that: advice. You have to make your own way and do things your way. What one person says for you may not work with you or your personality. Take the advice into account when considering your own situation.
We have chosen a profession where we evolve from law student, to articling student, to lawyer. As a lawyer, many of us evolve from junior associate, to senior associate, to junior partner, to senior partner. Many of us evolve in solo practice or in a start-up firm of junior lawyers. Quite simply, the evolution of our careers carries stress and difficulties at every stage. Mentoring can alleviate that stress with advice from someone who has “been there and done that.”