If you’ve had the privilege of being supported by an amazing mentor, what was it about this person that made such an impact? Perhaps their guidance enabled you to set and achieve goals much more quickly than had you tried without their wisdom.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner and in the spirit of ‘paying it forward,’ I challenge you to consider becoming a career mentor to someone in need. Many researchers agree that mentoring can be associated with a wide range of positive outcomes including facilitating career development among employees1. In addition, self-confidence grows commensurately with professional mentoring.
Once you’ve decided to mentor, follow these steps to make your mentorship more meaningful.
Partner up and set expectations. Both you and your mentee will set yourselves up for success by setting clear expectations from the get-go. You can easily learn what the mentee hopes to derive from your mentorship by asking questions. Dale Carnegie’s 15th Human Relations principle is to, ‘Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.’ Once you’ve actively listened to the mentee’s responses, you can set expectations including how frequently you meet and how you will track activities and goal attainment.
Pursue on a personal level. Mediocre advice is meaningless. To maximize your mentor/mentee relationship, you must show a sincere interest in your mentee. Dale Carnegie’s 4th principle is to, ‘Become genuinely interested in other people.’ Getting to know your mentee on a deeper, personal level will reinforce her trust in you and deepen the relationship. If the mentee says her presentation went well, don’t stop there. Ask what she thinks she did best and what she would do over if she could. Then, applaud her for a job well-done and give advice for how to improve upon where she fell short.
Push pause when appropriate. Just because you have more experience than your mentee does not mean you must always have all of the answers. Be honest when you do not and commit to procuring the information; then deliver it. Be aware that sometimes, people just need to vent—especially if they applied a new skill and struggled. Put yourself in their shoes so you are more cognizant of when to offer advice vs. when you need to sit back and listen attentively.
Practice empathy and act accordingly. Strong mentors have high emotional intelligence levels. Scientists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer first coined “emotional intelligence” as, “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.” One aspect of emotional intelligence is being self-aware which enables you to manage your own negative emotions so that you forgo projecting them onto other people. Knowing thyself first will enable you to better understand how your mentee’s experiences have shaped her, and how best to frame solid advice that will last a lifetime.