How to Be The Best Possible Mentee

Mentors Barri Rafferty, Dave Samson, Glen Cameron, Heide Gardner, Danny Rubin and Tom Hoog. (Photo by Dan Sjostrom)
Mentors Barri Rafferty, Dave Samson, Glen Cameron, Heide Gardner, Danny Rubin and Tom Hoog. (Photo by Dan Sjostrom)

A lot has been written about what it takes to be a good mentor, so I was pleased to see the Plank Center focus on the mentee side of the relationship in interviews with six impressive communication leaders honored by their peers last week during the sixth annual “Milestones in Mentoring” gala in Chicago.

Honorees answered a series of questions that confirmed why they so effectively lead by example as they mentor tomorrow’s future leaders. They highlight the importance of what their roles entail, what challenges occur and how other professionals can pay it forward. This post focuses on responses to the question: What is your advice for mentees (young professionals and students)? Follow the individual links after each quote for full interviews.

Tom Hoog, Vice Chairman, Hill+Knowlton Strategies: As a mentee, seek out individuals whom you respect and want to emulate. Ask questions, pick their brains, but also, listen and observe them. You’ve heard the saying, “talk the talk and walk the walk.” Mentees need to learn the difference and learn it early. Seek council from those individuals who succeed at it. You can learn just as much, if not more, from their actions, not just their words.  Tom Hoog

Heide Gardner, Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Interpublic GroupFirst: First, seek out mentoring relationships and don’t worry about what they are called. Mentoring with a “capital M” can seem daunting to some busy executives, but they are perfectly happy to provide guidance or advice from time to time. Also, deliver value to your mentor: Share articles you think would interest them; introduce them to people you think they should know; tell them about something you learned; treat them as a partner and not just a source of help. Have more than one mentor – you need a “board of directors.”Heide Gardner

Dave Samson, General Manager, Public Affairs, for Chevron Corporation: I always remember what one of my closest mentors once told me. He said: “Dave, you get many chances to get it right with your career, but you only get one chance to get it right with your kids.” In effect, he was telling me that getting it right outside the workplace was more important than getting it right inside the workplace. He was teaching me about what really matters and keeping perspective. –Dave Samson

Barri Rafferty, CEO, Ketchum North America: Identify leaders you admire, but don’t emulate them. Always be true to yourself, and be open to feedback and suggestions. Be clear about what you hope to learn from a mentor, and don’t limit yourself to only one mentor. Diverse opinions are always the best way to get a clear picture of your options. –Barri Rafferty

Dr. Glen T. Cameron, Professor and the Maxine Wilson Gregory Chair in Journalism Research, Missouri School of Journalism: Ironically, academia can be a lonely place involving solitary work in the midst of thousands. One counter force to that isolation is to seek and develop a trusting relationship with a mentor. –Dr. Glen T. Cameron

Danny Rubin, Vice President of Rubin Communications Group in Virginia Beach, Virginia: You have a story no one else can tell. All of your work experiences — the good, the bad and the ugly — made you who you are. Now you need to rely on the past to build the future. That means infuse every job application and job interview with colorful anecdotes from your professional life. Let employers connect with you as a human being rather than “just another applicant.” Also, send handwritten thank-you notes. A lot. To everyone who guides you along the way. Danny Rubin

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