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Reaping the benefits of a mentorship requires a lot more than you’d think. The mentor might be there to provide advice, but the mentee is ultimately responsible for the heavy lifting.

Anthony Saccaro, ChFC, credits most of his career success to his commitment to having a mentor. (See our profile on Saccaro: When mentoring works.) Here, he offers some advice for prospective mentees:

Do your homework. Saccaro says it’s important for producers to know what their goals are and then find a mentor who has the expertise to help them achieve those goals. And before entering a partnership, take the time to get to know your mentor well. When Saccaro chose his mentor, “It wasn’t a five-minute phone conversation,” he says. “It was a long, thought-out process.”

Be willing to spend time and money. Many mentors charge money for their services, and mentees may have to travel to meet with mentors who live in different parts of the country. In addition to speaking regularly with his mentors on the phone, Saccaro flies to Florida three to four times a year to take part in workshops put on by one mentor.

Don’t expect too much. Every meeting with a mentor isn’t always going to be stellar, Saccaro says. “I don’t get value out of every call with my mentors,” he says. “I probably get value out of one or two of those [four calls a month], but it’s enough.”

Look for a challenge. A good mentor will push a producer to do new things and think in different ways. “There’s no reason to have a mentor on something you know already,” Saccaro says. “If you are throwing ideas by your mentor and your mentor is agreeing with everything, you probably need to get a new mentor.” But know when to draw the line: “There’s a difference between a mentor and a tormentor,” he says.

Remember to think independently. Saccaro asks his mentors for input before he makes a business decision, but whatever he ultimately does is still up to him. “If it’s something I’ve never done before, whether that’s hiring a new agent or whatever, it helps to talk to someone who has,” he says. “But I don’t blindly follow their advice. It’s just that, before making a decision, the more information you have before going in, the better off you’ll be.”


For more on mentoring, see:

When mentoring works

How to be mentored

Recruiting Young Blood For an Old Industry