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13 Tips for Working with a Mentor

Take advantage of this virtual time in our existence due to COVI-19, and find your next mentor. My life has been impacted by mentorship. I have surrounded myself with people who are successful in different facets of their lives, and many of them have been people who are blind or low vision. Some have been individuals who are not. I have learned from all of these people. I believe that I have a responsibility to mentor others, and I take it very seriously. Well, I still make lots of jokes throughout. So, as seriously as I can. I am a mentor and a mentee. I still have mentors who I can go to regarding life, work, and technology. Over the years, I have been connected with mentors regarding Paralympic sports, employment, independence, technology, marriage, and more.

What is a Mentor?

There is a difference between a mentor and a role model. A role model is someone you look up to, but with whom you don’t have a relationship in which you can ask them advice or have a personal connection. I have plenty of role models, like Martin Luther King, Jr. I am not a hundredth of the person Dr. King was for our world. Reading about him at an early age shaped my beliefs. I’ve also had other role models through the years. I am sure you all have as well.

Mentors, on the other hand, are people you interact with, and you are able to ask advice and who might challenge your perception to help you grow. This relationship needs to be defined. During our current virtual living, you can take advantage of this time to help identify and connect with a possible mentor. Not every mentor-mentee relationship is a given. For example, I have a number of people whom I mentor, and I am selective. Mentorship takes time, effort, comfort, and a level of trust.

When I reach out to people to mentor me, I start by building a relationship. I have already done my research on them. I don’t want to ask them questions that I can easily find online. As a mentee, I should be prepared to do the work, as I don’t go to them to connect me to others. I go to them to learn from them and their experiences. Mentorship is not meant to be a networking tool.

Tips for Finding a Mentor

Tip 1: Identify mentors from whom you would like to learn.

Tip 2: Research each of these individuals.

Tip 3: Write an email introducing yourself and what interested you about them.

Tip 4: Ask intelligent questions that can’t be found with a quick search online.

Tip 5: Communicate with them a few times.

Tip 6: Don’t assign your mentor work to do, as the effort should be on you as the mentee.

Tip 7: Be flexible regarding their schedule. Value their time. Don’t be late.

Tip 8: Don’t overwhelm the mentor with too much information or too many questions at once.

Tip 9: Don’t ask the same questions over and over again.

Tip 10: Mentorship can be done in many formats, but it typically involves communication through conversations and electronic mediums. Conversations offer an opportunity for follow-up questions and building a different level of connection.

Tip 11: Do the work that you are asked to do to better yourself.

Tip 12: Demonstrate your appreciation for their efforts and time.

Tip 13: Stay in touch.

Take advantage of this virtual time and connect with your next possible mentor. One size does not fit all. You could be reaching out to them at a very hectic point in their life, or they may have a number of mentees already. Don’t be offended by a denial. Thank you to all of my mentors and all of the mentors out there in the world.