5 Tips for Becoming a Great Career Mentor

17/08/16

If you have ever been fortunate enough to have had a career mentor in your professional working life, you will understand just how valuable and essential it can be.

Trying to navigate your way in a new workplace and establishing yourself on a career path can be really daunting, confusing and something that education cannot adequately prepare us for.

Having a mentor early in our careers can positively influence the steps we take and the confidence we have to progress on our professional journey.

Career mentors help us plug our knowledge and skills gaps and seek opportunities that help us grow and excel in our professional lives. What differentiates a great mentor from a good mentor, you might ask?

A good mentor is generally someone that plays the role of the confident advisor, provides guidance and assists one to overcome career hurdles.

A great mentor is someone who inspires. Great mentors forge deeper relationships, they are role models providing career guidance and socialisation into the norms of a profession. They offer friendship in addition to overall support.

According to Pamela Ryckman, author of Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business, “a great mentor is honest and unafraid to tell you hard truths about yourself and your work. She helps you navigate the politics of your organisation or profession, and avoid the land mines. She pushes you to take risks and aim higher, and advocates for you when you’re not there”.

“Helping someone else succeed can be immensely gratifying,” Ryckman says. “But what I’ve heard time and again from executive ‘elders’ is how much they gain in return when they mentor young people. They’re often surprised at how much they learn from their mentees. Mentoring really goes both ways; when different generations come together, their blend of skills can be highly complementary.”

Ryckman sums it up nicely in saying that by investing in others you’re also investing in yourself.

Here are 5 tips to help you give back and get you started on your journey to becoming a great mentor, adapted from Lindsay Kolowich's article on How to Be an Amazing Mentorpublished on Hubspot, January 2016:

1. Approach each mentorship differently

Each individual you mentor will be different and the mentor-mentee relationship will be unique. Thus it's important when starting out to think about your own style and readiness, and what kind of commitment you would like to make.

Rebecca Corliss, Development and Culture leader at HubSpot recommends reflecting on the list of questions below to get you started:

  • What kind of manager style do you naturally have/want?
  • What expectations will you set in regards to your style and how best to work with you?
  • How will you know when your mentee is successful?
  • How will you communicate what success looks like to him/her?
  • What do you hope your mentee’s development looks like over the course of your mentorship?
  • How can you segment out his/her experience into phases to get to that point?
  • How will you use one-on-one time?
  • How will you explain your expectations for one-on-one meetings (if applicable) so you’re on the same page?

2. Set expectations together in the very beginning

To provide valuable guidance and advice that is well received, it is necessary to first understand the mentee’s needs, wants and expectations, as well as your own. Drawing on the questions above, work together to establish a framework to ensure expectations are clear, realistic and shared.

3. Know when to wait before giving advice

Have patience and be an active listener. Feedback or advice does not have to be immediate. As a mentor your role is to provide advice and encouragement, but in order to do so, you need to make the time to listen and understand the situation.

In the words of Lindsay Kolowich, “An amazing mentor knows how to determine whether or not a situation lends itself to off-the-cuff feedback or really thoughtful feedback”.

4. Celebrate their achievements

A lot of the relationship between mentor and mentee can be focused at times on improvements and what not to do as the mentee navigates their way through new territory. Thus a mentee is often seeking the mentor’s approval and acceptance. Acknowledging and celebrating initiative and great results can help in building your mentee's confidence, reinforcing positive behaviour, and keeping them focused and motivated.

5. Lead by example

Be a great role model. Your mentee will learn a lot from you by just observing you in professional workplace. "They are likely to follow your lead, adapt your approach to their own style, and build confidence through their affiliation with you. As a mentor, you need to be keenly aware of your own behaviour,” writes E. Wayne Hart for Forbes

There are many aspects to mentoring and doing so can have many benefits not just for the individual but also for the company. Speak to one of our advisors today about hosting an intern. 

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