I recall a marketing campaign several years ago that asked the question “Where you want to go today?” My next tip on getting the most out of your mentor relationship for both mentors and protégés asks the related question, “Who do you want to know today?”
I have blogged before about the concept that no mentor can be all things to all protégés. It is unfair for the protégé to expect that level of perfection from the mentor. However, great mentors do listen carefully to what their protégés are looking for in the relationship and great mentors help the protégé connect with another lawyer who can meet the need when it is not one of their own strengths. In other words, one part of being a great mentor is asking the protégé, “Who do you want to know today?”
This can play itself out in different ways. A protégé may have an interest in a particular experience or in an area of law that the mentor cannot provide. Each of us has a network of colleagues and friends practicing in different areas of law that we can tap into to help our protégés. Sometimes the most helpful thing you are doing for a protégé is not related to a specific piece of knowledge that you can share but is helping connect the protégé to another person who can be a resource.
Sometimes a protégé is looking to get to know more people in the community. New lawyers often are told to network. Mentors can help with introductions to their friends and colleagues. It may be that your protégé is looking to make contacts in a different city and the mentor can help build a bridge to get there. There are lots of ways mentors help their protégés just by making introductions.
I encourage mentors and protégés to ask themselves about the additional connections that might be helpful for a great mentor experience this year. If you are a protégé preparing for your first meeting consider asking your mentor if she has specific colleagues or connections she recommends that you get to know. On the mentoring end of things consider whether you know of specific people that your protégé could benefit from being introduced. Give some thought to how you could facilitate the introduction. That is not in any way to diminish the amount of energy and time that you plan to invest in the mentor relationship for the year but it does open new possibilities for your protégé. Consider it a great way to supplement the good you are already doing in your time with the protégé.