I have been mentoring for many years. Sometimes mentoring came to me as an opportunity in a formal mentoring program or with a new hire; other times I was asked by a person to be their mentor. Throughout my mentoring experiences, I’ve been asked what it takes to be a good mentor. Here are some tips that you may apply in your own mentoring experiences.
Mentoring is not to be taken lightly. A good mentor is someone who is committed to helping their mentee find success. By providing guidance and valuable feedback, they help their mentee to develop and articulate their strengths and competencies, so they can be their best while identifying areas for further development. A good mentor supports their mentee in recognizing and understanding the impact of opportunities to develop their career path. Mentoring can take on many forms such as professional, personal or industry mentorship. A person can have more than one mentor depending on the areas of focus. Each mentor contributes to the success of the mentee depending on their area of expertise and where they can best provide guidance.
Establish a connection. As a mentor, getting to know your mentee is crucial to being effective in your role as a mentor. That connection could be developed through work related interactions, a hobby, an activity or a sport. Understanding what the mentee’s goals are and what expectations he or she has about what the mentee wants to get out of the mentoring experience is important to a successful mentoring experience. Once you understand your mentee’s goals, encourage your mentee to document their goals, identify intermittent actions to take to reach goals, and set target dates for completion of these actions. Some goals may be ones that can be reached quickly; others may take years to reach. Providing advice or guidance on how to take steps now that moves your mentee toward their goal, makes reaching goals seem more obtainable and offers the mentee the ability to celebrate small successes that will positively impact their ability to reach their goals.
Demonstrate what it means to be successful. A mentor demonstrates what it takes to be successful in their chosen field through their actions and is a positive role model for mentees. The best way to instill positive traits in your mentees is by exemplifying those traits in your own daily habits. They will learn more from witnessing you behaving in a professional manner and taking advantage of opportunities for self-improvement and advancement than they will from you verbally advising them to take these steps. For example, everyone knows it is important to participate in corporate sponsored events, such as round table discussions with leadership, corporate sponsored volunteer opportunities, or team building activities. No matter how often you share with your mentee the importance of these events, you will have more impact if you, yourself, attend these events and invite your mentee when appropriate.
Be excited to share professional knowledge and experiences. The exchange of ideas and knowledge is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of the mentorship experience. To be a successful mentor, you will need to be willing to be open about offering advice and insight into your thought processes so that your mentee understands the logic behind your suggestions. This can mean sharing stories that had positive and negative outcomes and what knowledge was gained through those experiences in order to help your mentee navigate through the professional environment.
If you aren’t excited about the mentor/mentee relationship, then it might not be the right pairing. However, if it is the right relationship, the opportunity exists to share experiences and learn from your mentee. For example, I have helped mentees handle challenging work situations and how to talk to their supervisor for career growth, but there have been many times my mentees have taught me something, such as when I was experiencing a technical challenge and one of my mentees was working in that technical arena. He was able to provide some advice on how to navigate that challenge.
Mentoring can be a gratifying experience. If you are the least bit interested in mentoring, I encourage you to seek out the opportunity to mentor others and maybe use some of these tips.