I'm fortunate to have had multiple helpful mentors throughout my career. From each, I’ve gained invaluable insights across a variety of areas (including job search, negotiation, and real estate). That’s the beauty of mentorship: no matter your goals, you can partner with someone that has “been there, done that” and work together to achieve them.
When Anaplan offered me the opportunity to mentor the reigning Student Anaplanner of the Year, Courtney Koyama, I jumped at it. I wanted a chance to pay it forward and help out a promising Anaplanner!
Having now experienced both sides of the mentor-mentee dynamic, I’ve outlined a few keys to being an effective mentor while driving a mutually fulfilling mentor-mentee partnership. Additionally, Courtney herself closes this blog post with insights from the perspective of a mentee.
Will your first meeting with your mentee be in person or over the phone? Are you open to an ongoing partnership, or are you out as soon as your mentee hits their goals? What’s in this for you? Kick off your partnership with a professional but friendly message that sets the tone and gives your mentee a taste of what they’re signing up for. In my introductory email to Courtney, I told her why I was motivated to mentor her, listed a few areas where I could potentially be of help, and most importantly, expressed how excited I was to connect with her. I assured her that in our first meeting, we would share our backgrounds and gameplan together to achieve her goals.
Comfort is crucial to a successful mentor-mentee partnership. The more comfortable your mentee feels talking with you, the more likely they are to open up and share their dreams and struggles. One way to build comfort with your mentee is to connect with them on a personal level.
During our first Zoom call, Courtney and I chatted about our backgrounds and hobbies. Luckily, we were able to bond over the fact that we’re both from the San Francisco Bay Area and that my sister attended the same college that she had just graduated from. Establishing commonalities can go a long way in building comfort, so before you get down to business, open up and get to know your mentee!
You can share the greatest wisdom in the world with your mentee, but if they don’t trust you, it’s all for naught! One way to earn the trust of your mentee is to explain what you’ve accomplished that qualifies you to give advice. Having recently graduated from college, Courtney didn’t have much experience with job interviews, so I proposed job interview preparation as a potential focus area. I laid the foundation for trust by walking her through my background: I had extensive experience interviewing for and securing job offers; secured a job offer for an Anaplan Model Builder role despite having zero Anaplan experience; and had interviewed several Anaplan Model Builder candidates myself as part of my current job.
Another way to earn your mentee’s trust is to show up to your discussions well-prepared. Rather than hopping on a call last minute and winging it, outline an agenda ahead of time. Before each of my calls with Courtney, I strived to make the most of our time by preparing thought-provoking questions and actionable insights to help guide the conversation.
Finally, trust isn’t just earned through speaking. Be succinct in your written communication to your mentee (you can always go into greater detail during a follow-up call) and structure your thoughts in a way that’s clear and easily digestible (bullet points and line breaks work well). Quadruple check your writing; sloppily-written sentences and typos are easy ways to lose trust!
Does your mentee want to improve their technical Anaplan skills? Earn a promotion within a year? Land their dream job? Before you start spewing advice left and right, work with your mentee to develop SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based). This will make it easier for you and your mentee to develop a plan of attack to achieve them.
After chatting about Courtney’s career aspirations, we focused our efforts around her overarching goal of landing an entry-level job as an Anaplan Model Builder by the end of the year. Working backward from this SMART goal, we decided that we would work to improve her resume and prepare her to kill it in the job interview game.
Make Action Items Clear
To keep things moving along, never end a meeting with your mentee without the next steps clearly defined. The last thing you want is to lose touch because either mentor or mentee didn’t realize that the ball was in their court. Also, include a timeline for each action item so that if one person lags, the other is clear on when to follow up.
At the end of our first call, Courtney and I agreed that she would send me her resume, which I would review and send back with feedback the following week. We would then schedule our next call to tie up any loose ends on the resume topic, then dive deep into job interview preparation.
The “Why” is Just as Important as the “What”
Your mentee will be that much more invested in your advice if they understand the rationale behind it. Thoughtfully and thoroughly explaining the “why” behind your advice may even inspire your mentee to think of ideas that you didn’t even think of. At the very least, the “why” will help your mentee break down challenges and leverage your suggestions to overcome them.
With each piece of job interview advice that I offered Courtney, I made sure to rationalize my suggestions from the perspective of the interviewer. This helped Courtney not only showcase her skills and experience but also practice putting herself in the interviewer’s shoes to formulate effective responses.
Keep It Real
Share your wisdom and successes with your mentee, but don’t forget to share your shortcomings and mistakes as well! No one is perfect, and your mentee can benefit from your lessons learned, as well as from hearing about your own journey of self-improvement. Also, the more honest you are with your mentee, the more likely they are to reciprocate and share their own struggles and weaknesses.
Through our discussions, Courtney and I discovered that we both tend to be perceived as the “quiet type.” This shared trait played a vital role in our discussions to prepare Courtney for onboarding at her new job. While sharing tips for how to make a good first impression (e.g. networking with coworkers, not being afraid to share ideas, and overall, being curious and asking a lot of questions), I empathized with Courtney and let her know that overcoming the “quiet” stereotype is a challenge that I’ve worked to conquer my entire life. Through expressing empathy, I continued to build a foundation for both comfort and trust.
Close the Loop & Check-In
A mentor-mentee partnership doesn’t have to end once goals have been achieved, but if it does, close the loop! Touch base with your mentee about what went well, what each of you learned, and what could be done better next time.
If both parties agree that the mentor-mentee partnership will continue, check in with your mentee from time to time. Sure, your mentee may reach out to you with questions, but every now and then, reach out to your mentee and see how things are going. You never know how or when you may be able to help them again!
Courtney and I worked together even after she achieved her original goal. I advised her during both her job offer and new employee onboarding processes and will continue to check in with her as she settles into her new job.
Insights From the Mentee Perspective
My mentee, Courtney Koyama, shares her perspective on mentorship:
When I was first approached about the idea of having a mentor, I was very interested as I thought that it would be a great opportunity to gain more advice about post-grad and navigating the workforce. Since I was not familiar with Anaplan prior to college, I thought a mentor would be able to share their first-hand experience with Anaplan, such as what it is like using the platform within the work environment or any difficulties they encountered.
Through this mentorship connection, Nick has helped by providing me with advice and tips that are not only applicable now but also tools that I would be able to apply in the future. Nick helped me to improve my resume as he gave me guidance on ways to make my resume more cohesive and fitted for the particular jobs I was applying to. He also helped me prepare for job interviews and gave me advice on how to make a good first impression as a new hire. Not only did Nick provide me with advice but he also helped me to build my network by connecting me to people within the Anaplan ecosystem.
Some advice that I would give to other mentees would be to ask a lot of questions and to be open to learning. After graduating from college there was this sense of pressure to feel like I knew everything and that I should have learned it in school. However, this mentorship showed me that there is still a lot to learn which can only come with experience and not just through education. It is also helpful to come into the mentorship with a goal in mind so that your mentor has a better idea of how to guide you to meet that goal.
Have comments for Nick or Courtney? What are your thoughts about mentorship programs? Leave a comment below.