Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making the Most of Your Mentoring Experience

While everyday mentoring happens quite randomly with just a few questions here and there until a regular relationship forms with someone over time, a consultation or set-aside time for mentoring requires more preparation and focus in order to get the most information possible in the shortest amount of time.  Since 90 people will win great mentors in the Thirst Relief Mentor Auction ending THIS evening, I wanted to share some tips to help you get the most out of your mentoring experience!

Know Your Goals

Start by writing out what you need to need to know, or do, in order to move forward in your business. This list is just for you, so write everything that comes to mind. After you've listed everything you can think of, start prioritizing items by what is most important right now, versus things you'd like to do eventually. Once you've identified your top priorities, pick 3 that you'd like to explore with your mentor. By sticking to 3 prioritized goals, you'll be able to focus on what you can start implementing right away, which will help you feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

Communicate Difficulties

It's one thing to have goals, but you also need to be able to communicate why you've had a hard time moving forward with your goals. Understanding the difficulties you're facing will help your mentor provide solutions or alternative approaches to the problems. Everyone faces similar difficulties at some point in their attempt to build a business, so be honest about the challenges you're facing, even if you think they might seem personal, insignificant, or silly.  This is not the time to hide your insecurities, because sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

Create Action Steps

Once you've worked with a mentor to create solutions for difficulties in achieving your goals, turn those solutions into action steps. Action steps should be small and concrete. For example, your goal might be to create a new website, but that involves many small action steps like: selecting favorite images, writing a new bio, getting an updated headshot, updating pricing information, etc. Your mentor should be able to help you identify exactly what those small steps are and possibly even help you accomplish them by providing feedback on what works best. When solutions are broken down into small steps, suddenly the goal doesn't seem so overwhelming or impossible to achieve, and progress can be made.

Set Due Dates

Deadlines are the ultimate motivator for actually accomplishing goals. Your mentor can help you determine reasonable due dates for each of your action steps and if they're really cool, they'll even check in with you to make sure you accomplished everything. To help yourself, put your due dates in your calendar with reminders along the way to set time aside for getting everything done, because sometimes things only get done when you've set time aside for them.

Get Feedback

Once you've accomplished the goals you worked with your mentor on, share your success with them and invite their feedback on your accomplishments. Mentors love seeing the results!  Be open to what they have to say and welcome any suggestions for further improvement. Often times the biggest mistake we make is in thinking that we're "done" when there's always more that we can improve upon. Great mentors will care about your results, so don't be afraid to reach out to them after the time they've committed to giving you. Just make sure that you're respectful of their time by only asking for responses that can't be found elsewhere online.

Good luck with the final hours of bidding!  I hope you win a great mentor!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.


  1. Awesome tips! Some really helpful ideas for people - love it!

    One other tip when you're bidding -- look where the mentoring is available at. Some are at WPPI only, some are by phone only, some are in the mentor's home city - so make sure you know before you bid!

  2. Great advice. I just found this blog while looking at the different auctions. Now just trying to decide who to bid on :)

  3. Melisa, Christine and I are both on the auction, and I listed a bunch of photographers who are going for bargain rates on my personal blog:


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