How can you get the best constructive feedback on your performance, project or personal and professional goals? Great mentors! But, how can you find them, and how can you get the most from the relationship? 

Have you ever participated in a mentor/mentee “speed dating” exchange? The idea is to meet and spend 10 minutes with five potential mentors over the course of about an hour. It’s a great way to network, and it can provide the starting point for a potential mentor/mentee relationship. 

I participated as a mentor in one of these events last week hosted by Right Women as part of their professional development program. It got me thinking about the best ways to really solidify a mentor-mentee relationship, like the one I have with former ambassador and author Lisa Gable (PHOTO), who often lends her support, thoughtful perspective, and problem-solving skills. 

I have found these three pieces of advice on mentorship will deepen the mentor/mentee connection into a relationship, will yield greater return on your investment of time (and the mentor’s), and will serve you well as you pivot and grow in your career. 

  1. The mentor/mentee relationship is most valuable when it’s a two-way street. Most would-be mentors are more than happy to give you loads of advice, and expect nothing in return. However, it can strengthen and deepen the relationship when you (as the mentee) also think proactively about the value you can provide to your mentor. Ask yourself: What’s a project she is working on where you might have a perspective, could offer to share a professional contact, or could provide something else of value (including your time)?  
  2. Plan for your meetings. Have a couple of potential topics that you would like input on from your mentor. Consider sharing that in advance so the mentor can spend a few minutes thinking of the best ways to help you. Do some research on what the mentor has been working on and maybe thought leadership she’s been sharing on Linked In. Make a list of the ways you can — potentially — help your mentor on those efforts. 


Years ago, I had an intern who participated in a public policy internship program that my team and I created at PwC. This particular intern differentiated herself from the competition in many ways including her thoughtful approach to getting on my calendar, being specific about which areas she wanted input and feedback on, but also proactively thinking about how she might offer value to me and to our team. She took the time in advance of the meeting to do some research and to plan how she would use her time with me. This little story still sticks in my mind because it made such an impression. 

Sometimes we can feel like we are so junior to the potential mentors we might not have anything to offer. I would argue — as my young intern realized early on — just the effort to try to add value can be differentiating. NOTE: The  intern I’m referring to is all grown up and well established in her career. She still keeps in touch, asks for my advice, and often shares her thoughts and input on my current work with she said/she said podcast! 


3. Select mentors based on their expertise, and don’t just rely on one person’s pov or feedback. This one is pretty self explanatory, but I like this quote that was shared with me by business coach and author Sallie Holder, who joined me on she said/she said podcast last year: “Don’t go to the hardware store to buy bread.” Essentially remember that you should be selective about who you ask for advice. Having several mentors with different levels of experience and areas of expertise can be incredibly valuable when you are looking for specific advice. 

What’s the best way you have found to build and solidify your relationships with mentors, and to get the best advice and constructive feedback? I’d love to hear your thoughts!