One of my favorite parts of working with Salesforce is the ecosystem. The Salesforce community is filled with kind, helpful people. I have been the beneficiary of many successful mentorship relationships (both formal and informal) through my career. From consulting to certifications to development, I have been lucky enough to find wonderful mentors to help and guide me.
I have also seen many failed mentorships, through no fault of the mentor or mentee. I was recently asked what my advice would be to a new mentee, and that got me thinking. I discussed this with colleagues as well, and the consensus is that two key items seem to determine the success of a mentorship. We’ll cover those two points in this article.
Factor #1 – Formalize It!
Making a formal mentorship relationship breaks down into two pieces: setting aside time, and setting goals.
A mentor (especially one you might want to emulate) is likely a very busy individual. A mentee is also typically in a full-time position, making free time an uncommon luxury. Finding time to meet can be a constant struggle. So to avoid this, I recommend setting aside a designated recurring meeting time (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc.). Having a meeting on the calendar makes it much more likely to happen.
Don’t hope that your mentorship meetings just happen organically. Leaving that to chance is the most common way to have them fizzle out.
Second, make sure that you set a goal for your mentorship. Are you looking for career advice, technical questions, soft-skills? Both the mentor and mentee should know what the goal is. This helps keep both parties focused. Even if this goal changes over time (mine almost always have), it is good to start with some expectations.
A Missed Opportunity
Earlier in my career, I was assigned a mentor through a work program. This mentor was a highly technical developer and architect. He was in the role I wanted in the future, so this was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn.
But, being new to Salesforce, I didn’t want to burden this individual. I knew he was busy, so I decided to let meetings happen organically. I didn’t want to be a bother. This was a big mistake. We did have two meetings together, but since there wasn’t a formal schedule, things eventually fell to the side.
While I regret missing the opportunity to work with that person more closely, it did teach me a valuable lesson. Don’t let a lack of structure ruin a potentially great opportunity.
Factor #2 – Be Mentee Driven
The next most common issue I see is having the relationship driven solely be the mentor, or not driven by either party. In my experience, this leads to an unsatisfying mentorship relationship.
If you’re a mentee, make sure you know what you’re hoping to gain from your mentor. What expertise, experience, connections, etc. do they offer? What is the outcome you are hoping to achieve? Being clear with these goals keeps you focused, and helps your mentor drive value.
If you’re a mentor, take the time to understand what your mentee is looking to accomplish. Let your experience influence conversations and suggestions, but don’t make decisions for your mentee. Push them to ask the questions, as this makes them more effective in work and life.
If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, it is unlikely you’ll get there organically.
Mentee vs. Mentor Driven
Now that I’m more established in my career, I have been able to transition to being a mentor to others. I am still surprised that anyone would look up to me, since I still feel I have so much to learn. But I do enjoy being able to give back.
About a year ago, I had a couple of mentorship relationships that contrasted strongly. Both were very driven individuals looking to break into the consulting ecosystem, but one was mentee driven, the other driven by me. In both cases, that was requested by the mentee.
I learned a great deal through those two relationships. The mentee driven engagement was so much better focused. I was able to drive value directly, since my mentee asked for specific help, sent me questions in preparation, etc. This really freed me up to target specific items, and offer advice that was directly relevant to her career. I feel she was able to get more out of our time than any previous mentee.
A mentorship relationship can be an extremely rewarding endeavor for both parties. I highly recommend finding mentors and, when possible, become a mentor to someone else. Also, don’t let imposter syndrome prevent you from becoming a mentor. Your unique experiences qualify you as a valuable resource.