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Broadening the On-ramp for Women-run Companies

The Mentee Decree

As I’m sure many of you have seen, David Cohen’s “Mentor Manisfesto” is a great set of guidelines for mentors. It’s been very helpful to me in my journey as a mentor and it’s certainly helped us recruit mentors for MergeLane. However, I had an experience the other day that inspired me to think about this from the mentee perspective.

I’m a mentor for another accelerator and I reached out to one of the companies in their upcoming cohort because they were based in Vail and I was planning to be in Vail before the start of the accelerator. Here’s how it went down:

The managing director of the accelerator sent them an intro with a little blurb on my background. I then received three different emails from each of their team members to tell me when and where they could meet (all different). Then, one of the team members asked me if they could call me for a few minutes before we set up the meeting. We talked for 30 minutes and he spent the first 20 minutes asking me questions about my background which he easily could have answered by reading the original intro email and a taking a quick glance at LinkedIn. This was all during my busiest time at MergeLane (which he also could have gleaned from LinkedIn), so needless to say, I was not thrilled.

So…I took a deep breath, remembered the Mentor Manifestor vow to “be direct” and respectfully shared my thoughts. I explained that his accelerator mentors were volunteering their time. I explained that many of these mentors receive hundreds of requests for meetings and have schedules that are booked solid, several months in advance. I pointed out the importance of first impressions when recruiting mentors and investors, and I asked him whether this feedback was helpful. He immediately apologized and has since gone above and beyond to be respectful of my time. We had a great first meeting and I am now delighted to be his mentor. But….it made me wonder how many companies were turning off potential mentors because of a simple lack of understanding.

Enter the Mentee Decree. I’ve taken several points from David’s Mentor Manifesto and reworked it from the other perspective. If you have any feedback on this, please leave a comment.

The Mentee Decree:

  1. Choose your mentors wisely. Your and your mentors’ time is valuable. It’s alright to say no.
  2. Align expectations. Make sure you are both there for the right reasons. Come to a clear understanding of time commitments and mentor duties.
  3. Make it easy for your mentors. Coordinate meetings in as few threads as possible and try to be accommodating.
  4. Research your mentor. Have a clear understanding of how your mentor can be helpful to you and how you can be helpful to your mentor.
  5. Be prepared for meetings. Set a tight agenda and be respectful of your mentors’ time.
  6. Be authentic. Your mentor is there to help. Don’t be afraid to show your true colors.
  7. Know what you don’t know. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado.
  8. Be open, but stay focused. Don’t lose sight of your critical path, but be open to unexpected opportunities. Spend more time listening than refuting. Let the advice sink in before you respond.
  9. Trust your instincts. Have the confidence to decline advice and opportunities.
  10. Say yes only when you mean it. Say yes when you’ll actually take the advice. Respectfully say no when you won’t.
  11. Be responsive. Answer emails and return calls. If you are too busy to respond or your time commitment becomes too much, let them know.
  12. The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way. Ask how you can be helpful to your mentor.
  13. Pay it forward. Adopt at least one company every single year.
  14. Give and accept feedback. Let your mentor know what is and isn’t working for you, and make sure they know they can do the same for you.

Did I miss anything?

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