Your Route to the Top: USE mentors to the max

Have a clear aim. Ask yourself: 'What do I want out of this? How can I make it easy for my mentor to help me?'

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Work out the logistics. Decide between you how you want the relationship to work. Will you set aside an hour a week with pen and paper, or simply catch up over a cocktail, ad hoc? Establish how you'll conduct things and how often you'll meet.

Build trust. Get to know one another, both professionally and personally. Take the time to find common ground and discover what makes each other tick. Show your appreciation for what they're doing, and never betray your mentor's confidence.

Tell them what you want. E-mail a suggested agenda in advance, or send the questions you want to address in the next session. Give clear feedback: 'I really appreciated going through how to win the last big deal; if we could talk about how best to service that deal now, it'd be great.'

Contribute. What you get out of it depends on what you put in. Build on their ideas with 'yes and... ' or add your own analogy to explain the concept. The more you demonstrate your enthusiasm, the more your mentor will engage with you.

Be honest. If you're struggling to understand something or are bored with any aspect, let them know. They can't help you if they don't know all the facts. Choose your words carefully so that it does not come across as criticism.

Strike a balance. Switch from listening to talking and challenging. A good mentoring relationship mixes all of these.

Get it down. Keep a diary of the little gems, tips and notes from your sessions. This serves as a personal reference guide as well as a record of your progress.

Don't restrict yourself. Why have just one? Over the course of your career you should benefit from a range of experts. Have a group of advisers and dip in and out depending on your need.

'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at www.themindgym.com.

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