Most new mentors wonder exactly what they should actually be doing once the relationship starts rolling. If you find yourself in this position, read on! Here are six tips to keep in mind.
- Share yourself. Be open and willing to be vulnerable. Take the time to share your experiences. Talk about how they influenced you and the impact they have had on your career development. Don’t turn your story into “war stories.” What you want your story to do is to serve as a springboard to further conversation and learning. Invite questions. Don’t assume that your story will be their story.
- Share your expertise and experience. Mentoring provides an opportunity to pass on knowledge and spawn a new generation of thinking. Create safe hands-on opportunities for your mentee to learn. For example, you might have your mentee shadow you for a day. But, before you do that, prep your mentee. Tell her what she might observe, and suggest some questions that will help her know what to look for while observing you or the situation. After the “shadowing” experience have a conversation to debrief what she learned and how she might apply it.
- Make connections and share your networks. Remember you didn’t get where you are by yourself. If a colleague of yours has some expertise or experience that you think might be helpful to your mentee, pick up the phone/send a text. Leveraging your connections on behalf of your mentee offers first-hand exposure that they can’t leverage by themselves. It also provides another perspective, another way of doing things. After your mentee has made the connection, encourage him to reflect on what they learned.
- Help your mentee stay focused on the big picture. It is so easy for a mentee to get distracted by everyday spur of the moment workday pressures. When that happens, they lose the strategic opportunity having a mentor provides. Mentoring is about development. That means envisioning that future and staying focused on creating that future. The questions you ask are important. They encourage movement and offer a map. For example, “let’s explore how that strategy relates to your career goals or your vision of yourself five years from now.”
- Be mutually accountable. You and your mentee have formed a partnership. In a partnership both parties are mutually accountable for results. Creating clear and specific goals is essential. Once you’ve done that and discussed how you plan to achieve your goals, calendar specific checkpoints to have a meaningful conversation about how you are doing as mentoring partners. How are things working? Is the relationship mutually satisfactory? What progress have you made toward achieving your goals? What can you each do better to ensure success?
- Set the stage for feedback. Engaging in feedback— asking for it, giving it, receiving it, accepting it, and acting on it—is a vital part of enabling growth for your mentee. Providing feedback without having first established a climate of readiness and expectation can create a frustrating and negative experience for both you and your mentee. As a mentor, you need to set the stage for success by creating the expectation early on that feedback will be an ongoing part of the mentoring process. For example, you might relate your own personal story about someone who provided feedback that had significant impact on you.