Mentee Seeking Mentor

Posted April 9, 2014 at 5:30am

Wouldn’t it be great if David Axelrod decided to meet you for coffee? Or how about if Sheryl Sandberg or Theo Epstein emailed to see if you were free for lunch in Longworth, to, you know, talk about your future?  

For most of us, that isn’t happening. But there are a lot of superstars to-be on Capitol Hill, many of whom have advice to offer. So how to turn their goodwill into a mentorship? Hill Navigator discusses.

Q. How do you turn a key relationship into a mentorship? Thanks!

A. Good news for you: You already have.  

If you have a “key relationship” with someone whom you receive feedback and insight from, therein lies your mentorship. You do not need to bestow the “mentor” title upon them; all you need to do is reiterate how much you appreciate their time and advice and soak up as much of their wisdom as possible.  

And here are a few ways to continue to do that:  

Take their advice. Are you bemoaning your lack of promotion options, but then refusing to go on the handful of informational interviews that your mentor suggests? If you can’t take her advice, don’t take up too much of her time. Hill Navigator acknowledges there are times to agree to disagree, but if you want this to be a relationship that lasts through your next job, make sure it’s someone who is simpatico with your worldview. From her end, it is much more gratifying to spend time with someone who values the advice she doles out.  

Give the good news and the bad . Don’t just seek the mentor out when you need help. Be sure to keep him apprised of the good in your world, especially if you can do so as a credit to his help. Even if all he did was refer to you read Hill Navigator, thank him for the advice and say how much it helped.  

Give thanks. Most key relationships don’t need a Starbucks gift card, but she will appreciate a hand-written thank-you note. Particularly if she goes above and beyond in giving you time and consideration, put pen to paper and say “thanks.” Then put a stamp on it. Don’t take the easy way out with email.  

Help the mentor, too.  He might not need your words of wisdom, but might need a Capitol Tour for a family friend, or an informational interview for an aspiring intern. The more receptive you are to requests, the more incentive there is to to keep advising you to reach your goals.  

Don’t be a cheater.  Once you pick your mentor, don’t start shopping around for another one. Yes, you can have more than one confidante and adviser, but your inner circle should be small, without many overlaps. One of the greatest gifts you can give another colleague is respect for her time; if you can do so for your mentor, then you are likely to have a productive relationship for years to come.