Finding a mentor is frequently an important part of any new employee’s professional development, but being a strong mentor can be just as much of a challenge. In many ways, a mentor is responsible for guiding a mentee through the ins and outs of developing their career, and there are good ways to do that, as well as bad ones.
It’s surprising how few resources exist for mentors, considering the important role they play, but if you find yourself in a mentorship position, consider these tips:
Like with any relationship, you want to make sure you and your mentee are on the same wavelength when it comes to the important things, namely: your values and goals. You’re going to be putting a great deal of time and energy into this relationship, after all, and the last thing you want to do is pick a mentee who doesn’t pull their weight. A mentee is not your child; they are your younger colleague looking to improve themselves. There’s a difference.
While the ideal mentee varies for everyone, they should be curious, organized, efficient, responsible, and engaged. And it’s okay to test potential mentees to see if they meet these requirements. In fact, giving a potential mentee a task to complete allows you to see into their thought process, communication abilities, and if they’re taking the objective seriously. If a potential mentee can’t even do that much, you’ll know that they lack commitment, and that’s not someone you want to take under your wing.
Establish a team.
The time of solo mentor-mentee relationships has passed, and a new age has dawned: collaborative, team-oriented mentor-mentee relationships have now become the reality. Professionals across the board are limited in their time and frequently moving, neither of which allow for a single person to devote themselves to the growth and development of a younger colleague. Having co-mentors will make your life easier, and will allow for your mentee to gain different perspectives.
Both the mentee and mentor should work together to cultivate this team that the mentee wants to learn from, with you serving as their primary mentor.
Be clear in your rules and expectations.
Though being a mentor will take up a portion of your time, it shouldn’t consume your entire life, and your mentee needs to be aware of that upfront. Setting firm and transparent ground rules from the get-go will save you many headaches down the line. Discuss potential misunderstandings early on and then decide on a rhythm of communication that works for both of you.