A mentor’s expertise is priceless. During graduate school, your job search, or your first years as a librarian or information professional a mentor can provide vital guidance and support. Mentors may be found among professors, internship or volunteer supervisors, colleagues, and through structured mentor programs in professional associations. I was very fortunate to find my wonderful mentor in another student and co-fellow in my MLIS program.
However, this post is not about how to find a mentor; rather, it is about being a good mentee. There are many qualities and skills that are valuable in a mentee, but I’ve narrowed these down to the three qualities and skills that I have found most important as a mentee.
A good mentee should:
Listening is a skill. It is one that can and should be practiced. And who better to practice with than your mentor? A mentor is providing insight and guidance for free and deserves the respect of a mentee who really listens.
Learn to take constructive criticism
Taking criticism is easier said than done. If you really want to improve, you need to learn to take constructive criticism, apply it, and be better for it. Don’t take constructive criticism personally. A suggestion that you refine your resume is not an attack on you as a person; it just means that you should refine your resume. Learning to take constructive criticism will help you make the most of your mentor/mentee relationship; it will also make you more empathetic and skillful when giving criticism to someone else, now or in a future position.
You are (or should be) grateful for your mentor’s guidance. Have you communicated your gratitude? Say thank you, send thank you cards, be sincere, and remember that this is a reciprocal relationship. Your mentor may ask for and value your input, feedback, and support.