8 Steps for a Successful Mentorship

analytics leadership management Nov 02, 2022
Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash

If you’re like most people in the world, you probably want to grow and improve your skills.  And somewhere along your journey, someone has probably suggested having a mentorship to help you improve. 

What typically occurs is that you’ll be introduced to another co-worker, put a meeting on the calendar for the two of you, and start feeling hopeful about all the great things to come from this mentor/mentee relationship.  You’ll have your first meeting, and it will probably feel a bit like a first date.  It may be a little awkward, as you’re trying to understand a bit about this person and trying to not act too excited because you might have found a superhero person that is going to help you get promoted. 

But by the second meeting or shortly after, you might find yourself feeling a bit lost and that you really aren’t making progress.  Sure, it’s nice to talk with someone that is higher on the career ladder, but the relationship doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and neither is your career. 

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.  And if you haven’t had a mentorship before, the situation that I described happens quite frequently. But there’s a way to help create an effective mentor-mentee relationship that will help you grow in your career.  Below are 8 steps for a successful mentorship.


 1. Define Where You Want to Be

The most critical step in your mentorship journey is to define where you want to be.  Without this definition, you’ll be wandering aimlessly through your journey.  You may receive random (and useful) tidbits of advice and guidance, but it probably won’t be aligned with your goals.  

There’s nothing wrong with this advice and it will probably make you a better person. But chances are you’ll be left feeling frustrated during your next employee review cycle when you haven’t made progress towards the things that matter most.


 2. Identify Where You Are

The next step is to identify where you are today.  You’ll want to take a hard look and seek out candid feedback about your skills, abilities, knowledge, and more.  Sure, you can self-identify and if you have good self-awareness, you may not need the feedback to help you understand where you are.  However, for the most part, receiving feedback will help you to create a more complete picture of where you are and how you are perceived. 

Now, as much as you may wish to ignore others perception and may defend yourself when receiving critical and negative feedback, the perception that others have of you is their reality.  And regardless how much you wish this wasn’t the case, your co-workers perceptions matter because your co-workers and leaders are deciding your future.


3. Acknowledge Your Gaps as Opportunities

After you’ve defined where you’d like to be and you’ve identified where you are today, you can acknowledge your gaps.  But don’t fret.  You shouldn’t view this as anything negative.  Everyone has areas for improvement, and this is an opportunity to improve. 

With these opportunities in hand, you’ll be equipped to ask for assistance in the right areas.  This is a critical piece of information that is often overlooked with mentorships.  Without this information, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up selecting the wrong mentor.  This is like saying, “I need a vehicle for transportation”.  If you don’t understand what vehicle you need, you might end up generalizing your needs and selecting a pickup truck instead of a minivan.  Both serve a purpose but have different specialties.


4. Find a Mentor with Skills and Experience 

Now that you know what skills you need to improve, you can find a mentor that aligns with your needs. But which mentor do you choose?  It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, and it depends if you’re trying to use only one mentor to help you improve all your areas of opportunity.  There’s nothing wrong with having multiple mentors because it might be challenging to find a single mentor that can help you with everything.

But when you choose your mentor, you should be aware of what they will and won’t be able to do for you.  For example, if you’re looking to get promoted, you may end up picking someone that can help you improve specific technical skills.  But if you pick someone at your same pay grade, this mentor probably won’t serve you well with networking with the individuals that will be making the decision regarding your promotion.  For this reason, you may need to work with multiple mentors to receive the coaching and training that you need.


5. Ensure Your Mentor is Vested

When you choose a mentor, my advice is to choose a mentor that is vested in you. Many people can offer mentorship and give feedback.  But unless your mentor is vested, they may not assist with holding you accountable and call you out when you’re not meeting the coaching goals that they are providing.

Some people may disagree and suggest that a mentor doesn’t need to be vested. Rather, it is the mentee that should guide their own path and hold themselves accountable.  While I agree that the mentee needs to take ownership of the process, I think of relationship like a private music teacher that someone would pay for. 

Many music teachers will take a new student if the teacher has availability.  But most great teachers won’t waste their time if a student comes in week after week for a lesson and isn’t making progress because they don’t practice between sessions.

If you have a mentor that isn’t creating accountability and helping you set targets and goals, then there’s a chance that goals won’t be created and both you and your mentor will end up wasting time.


6. Come Prepared

Coming on the heels of the music teacher example is preparedness.  It’s extremely important that you come prepared.  Chances are, your mentor is free (if you have a mentor that is an employee at your company), which means that they are donating their time to you, and they are probably already busy.  If you don’t come prepared with an agenda, tasks from the previous meeting, status updates of how you progressed since the last meeting, and questions for next steps or how to solve certain challenges, you’ll probably end up stalling out the mentor/mentee relationship.

This is because you won’t have anything of substance to discuss or anything that is related to your goals.  Very quickly you’ll probably find yourself talking about random topics like the weather and weekend plans, and the relationship will fizzle out.


7. Do the Work

With any areas where you’re trying to grow, you going to have to do the work.  You’ll need to prepare to invest your time by applying the suggestions from your mentor.  My recommendation is to work backwards from the suggestion.  If the suggestion is to talk to 14 new people per week, you can break this down to needing to talk to an average of 3 people per workday.  From there, you can start your day by setting your intentions and tactics for talking to 3 new people.


8. Assess Your Progress and Adjust

Lastly, you’ll need to assess your progress and adjust, either on your own or with the help of your mentor.  By working backwards to create your tasks, you can set small goals. From your goals, you can monitor your progress against your goals on a frequent basis.  Without this assessment, you may find yourself working hard (or feeling like you’re working hard) but after months or a year, never actually make any progress.  I like to think of this like going to the gym. 

Many people go to the gym with the intention to lose weight, but many people end up quitting because they don’t see the results that they were looking for.  But if the gym-goer was accurately measuring their performance (total calories burned) and their daily calorie intake, they would have rapid feedback into their progress and if they are having success.


I hope that these tips will help you develop a plan to advance your career, find the right mentor, and develop a successful mentorship!   If you're seeking a vested data and analytics mentor, contact us at:







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