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Explore the Mentoring Life Cycle

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify the four stages of the mentoring lifecycle.
  • Inventory your strengths, development needs, and characteristics to prepare for mentorship.
  • List expectations, ground rules, and goals to discuss with your mentor.
  • Identify activities and tools to help you cultivate your mentoring relationship.
  • Evaluate the success of your mentoring relationship.

The Mentoring-Relationship Lifecycle

Typical mentoring relationships have four key stages, where mentors and mentees: 

  1. Prepare for the mentoring relationship by assessing personal characteristics and determining what they want from—and will bring to—the experience.
  2. Initiate the conversation by having their first meeting to discuss expectations and goals.
  3. Cultivate the connection by identifying opportunities for growth and building on their skills.
  4. Evaluate achievements and outcomes by measuring growth and goal achievement and determining next steps for the partnership.

A circle depicting the four stages of the mentoring lifecycle: prepare, initiate, cultivate, and evaluate.

Even though the mentor and mentee both work through these four stages, let’s walk through your journey, as the mentee. 

1: Prepare for the Mentoring Relationship

For your mentor to be of most help to you, you have to have a clear destination. Whatever your goal—whether it’s to land your dream job or simply to better understand the Salesforce ecosystem—it needs to be clearly defined. Ultimately, you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your career choices and achieving your career goals. 

After you define your goal, develop a plan to achieve it. Your plan does not need to be long or elaborate—a short-bulleted list will do. Here are a couple of examples.

Meet Adesh

Adesh standing and smiling.

Goal:  

Get my first job working with Salesforce.

Plan:

  • Figure out what role I would best fit into.
  • Assess the skills I need for the role and my own skill gap (if any).
  • Work toward filling the skill gap.
  • Author a new resume that features those skills and is targeted at the selected role.
  • Figure out my job-search plan.

Meet Carla

Carla standing and smiling.

Goal: 

Move from an admin role to a technical architect role.

Plan:

  • Shore up my coding skills.
  • Convince my boss to assign me a coding task.
  • Complete the task with flying colors.
  • Request a transfer to the technical architect team.

As you can see, both Adesh and Carla have clearly defined their goals and developed step-by-step plans to achieve those goals. The plans aren’t fancy, but they do provide a framework for achievement that gets them started. Plus, the steps provide a perfect jumping-off point for mentorship discussions. 

Here are some more ways to ready yourself for the mentoring relationship.

  • Take inventory of, and reflect on, your characteristics and preferences.
  • Identify strengths and opportunities for growth.
  • Set long-term and short-term professional goals.
  • Establish expectations for the mentoring relationship.
  • Identify insights, knowledge, and skills you will bring to the relationship.
  • Consider ways you will build rapport with your mentor.

A mentee giving themselves a thumbs up in the mirror as they prepare for the mentoring relationship.

Why put in the work ahead of time? Because being prepared puts you in prime position to have a successful mentoring relationship—and career.

2: Initiate the Conversation

During your first meeting, spend some time getting to know each other and build a rapport that you’ll maintain during the course of the mentoring relationship. You can ask questions, such as:

  • What do you like to do outside of work?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

This initial meeting is crucial as it sets the tone for your mentoring relationship and provides the first opportunity for you to build rapport. Then review your goal and plan together, and refine it as necessary. Be honest with your mentor about areas of your plan that you feel need some work. 

That sounds like a lot of pressure, we know. And it’s perfectly normal to be a little nervous about this first meeting. Here are a few easy ways to break the ice. 

  • Find a comfortable, quiet space to have your initial virtual meeting with your mentor, so you are not distracted by noises and other elements.
  • Tell your mentor a little something about yourself.
  • Come to meeting with an open mind—don’t assume anything about your mentor based on societal stereotypes or personal biases.
  • Prepare some questions to ask your mentor, such as:
    • Can you tell me about your career journey?
    • What excites you about your job?
    • Explain why you got involved with Trailblazer Mentorship.

Asking these questions will help you better understand each other and your unique experiences.  

A Trailblazer mentor and mentee are smiling at one another during their first virtual meeting.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? You’re off to a super start! Now what? Use this handy checklist to help you dig in and get to the details.

Working Agreements

  • Agree on your mutual commitments to the relationship (for example, the duration of the relationship and meeting cadence).
  • Agree on a set of ground rules for the relationship, such as showing up to each mentoring session on time and prepared.
  • Agree to keep all conversations and data confidential.
  • Agree on specific actions your mentor will take to help you achieve your development goals.
  • Agree to communicate openly, honestly, non-defensively, and respectfully.

Discussion Topics

  • Discuss both career plan goals and expectations of the mentoring relationship.
  • Discuss and agree on the outcomes you want to achieve, based on your career plan.
  • Discuss your career goals: short-, medium-, and long-term.
  • Discuss ideas, resources, and support necessary to help you achieve your goals.
  • Discuss how you might handle concerns over the progress of the mentoring relationship.

You can use the Mentoring Agreement Template to guide you through this process. This agreement outlines priorities, areas of focus, measurements of success, and meeting expectations.

3: Cultivate the Connection

Now that you have embarked on the mentoring journey, established goals, and completed the Mentoring Agreement with your mentor, it’s time to cultivate your connection and really get going on those goals you’ve established.  

As you and your mentor build this connection, you’ll have a ton to talk about. Trust us! But if you find yourself at a loss and want to take the relationship to the next level—and kick your career development up a notch (yes, please!)—we suggest you take on a few more tasks.

  • Work together to create a personal career plan with fine-tuned objectives and strategies.
  • Review your resume with your mentor, and discuss how you can position your transferable skills to be successful in the Salesforce ecosystem.
  • Research the companies that you are interested in, and report back with your understanding of the roles and careers in the Salesforce ecosystem.
  • Conduct a mock interview and practice your personal elevator pitch.

Two computers show the faces of a mentor and mentee waving at one another as they virtually collaborate.

Managing Expectations

Sometimes, your expectations and your mentor’s expectations don’t align, and that’s OK—as long as you communicate and commit yourselves to realigning. If you don’t, you might be facing a world of frustration (and wasted time). 

Remember, too, that expectations aren’t set in stone. As you work toward achieving your goal, they might change. You and your mentor should revisit and reevaluate your expectations frequently during the course of the relationship to make sure you’re both on track. Feel free to use the Mentee Discussion Tracker Template here to help you keep track of the accomplishments and next steps for each of your meetings.

Once you’re aligned, your mentor can offer you advice and guidance that will get you even closer to your career goals. So, sit back, and take in the feedback.

4: Evaluate Achievements and Outcomes

Parting is such sweet sorrow. As your mentoring relationship comes to a close, it’s important that you work with your mentor to:

  • Reflect on the mentoring relationship and the lessons learned.
  • Revisit expectations and goals and assess how well they were met.
  • Determine whether to continue the relationship.

Here are a few tips for wrapping up your mentorship.

  • Set a date for your final meeting. Remind each other ahead of time so that you can prepare for it.
  • Celebrate your successes.  Acknowledge your achievements and consider what knowledge you can carry forward.
  • End the session on a positive note.  Talk about what you most enjoyed, what you’ll remember most, or the most important lessons you’ve learned.

If you’re interested in maintaining a relationship after the formal mentorship period has ended, ask your mentor if you can keep them updated on your progress toward your goal and reach out for advice every now and again. Regardless of how they respond, don’t forget to thank them and let them know how invaluable their guidance has been.

A mentor and mentee are shown high-fiving through the phone as they celebrate their mentoring journey.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Mentorship

Now that you know the stages of the mentoring relationship, here are a few tips for making the most of the time with your mentor:

  • Be honest. Acknowledge development areas that you need to work on and make those the focus of future meetings.
  • Do your homework. Don’t waste time talking about things that you can easily research or find online.
  • Ask tough questions.  Don’t be afraid to bring up “taboo” topics such as earning potential or your mentor’s professional challenges. Just remember to probe politely.
  • Say thank you.  Remember that your mentor is a volunteer who is taking time out of their busy day to help you. Express your appreciation, and let your mentor know that their guidance is having a positive impact.
  • Follow through. Maybe your most important task as a mentee is to follow through on advice from your mentor—whether it’s reading a book, taking a class, doing some research, making a change to your resume, or updating your LinkedIn or Trailblazer Profile. Your mentor has been down this trail already, so do your best to follow their advice and show up ready to learn more at your next meeting.

Long story short: To make the most of your mentoring relationship, you have to take the lead, do the work, and have a long-term vision. 

Whew! We covered the high-level view of the lifecycle—but as an eager mentee, you might want even more specifics. In the next unit, we’ll take a deeper dive into exactly how a mentee can create a successful mentorship. 

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