How to get the most out of a mentorship program as a mentor or mentee

I have been privileged to be part of mentorship programs from varying perspectives, from being a mentee, mentor, to an organizer. The first time I took part in a mentorship program was in 2017 as a mentee. It was at a time when I was looking to transition from Academia to Industry and I wanted to network and get guidance in my transition process. 

I got matched to a lady who was the head of an IT department at a transportation company. Although the relationship didn’t last long, she gave me valuable insights that I still carry with me today. She helped me improve my cover letter as well as my CV by pointing out that I needed to always communicate value and results rather than listing the responsibilities that I had. And to try as best as I could to put that value in numbers, which was not an easy thing to do with academic positions.

That additional perspective plus experience is what mentorship programs offer. Mentorship programs, when done well, allow you to reflect on how you work and find ways to improve yourself.

Fast forward to 2020, I am now part of another mentorship program, an internal program at my workplace that is meant for all the Fellows (F-Secure employees) across all the different units and offices where we operate. In this program, I got to participate as an organizer, a mentor, and a mentee. I learned something new and valuable in each of those roles and I wanted to share some of these learnings.

Naturally, both the mentee and mentor have to be ready to commit to the process. It usually helps to have a written agreement signed by both to show this commitment. Once you do decide to commit, here are some tips or guidelines.

As a Mentee:

Understand that you are the driver of the relationship. It’s your responsibility to set up the expectations, arrange the mentoring meetings, the meeting frequency, etc.  Understand that the mentor is not there to do the work for you. You are responsible for your development. This means you should also say when it’s not going well. Set a realistic goal and communicate it well to the mentor. I find it useful and more valuable to set a goal that challenges you and will have an impact on you once you go through the program. For example, as I shared earlier, I had the goal of transitioning from academia to industry. This was a challenging goal which has had a huge impact on my career . Depending on the length of the program, break that goal into few manageable and measurable objectives and try to tackle one at a time over one or two meetings. In my last mentoring program, which lasted over 5 months, I had 3 objectives and the mentor also had 3 objectives. And we tried to tackle one objective in each meeting. Prepare for the meetings, that way you and the mentor get the most out of the meetings. Even though the meetings can have the atmosphere of a casual chat rather than a serious meeting, preparing a focus for each meeting helps in achieving the objectives. I usually agreed on the agenda of the next session at the end of each meeting. Preparing or giving a

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