Mentoring is an important part of being a business professional and should be viewed as part of our day-to-day job responsibilities. Although I became more actively involved in mentoring later in my career, I have always viewed mentorship—that is, mentoring others as well as being mentored—as a necessity for personal and professional growth. These are my tips for anyone whose New Year’s resolution is to be a better mentor (and mentee).
1. Make Time for Mentorships
We, as seasoned professionals, have a responsibility to develop the leadership of the future. And although we’re often pulled in many different directions—meetings, deadlines, new projects, onboarding, and so on—building in the time to our day-to-day responsibilities will make a mentorship that much more valuable and rewarding. Mentoring others shouldn’t feel like a burden, and you need to have a positive attitude to be a great mentor.
2. Be Prepared for Mentorship Appointments
Personally, I see mentoring as part of my job, and like every aspect of a job, it’s important to be prepared. I thought I was well prepared for my first meeting with my first mentee, but soon after the meeting started, I realized I was giving boilerplate advice, which wasn’t very effective. I’ve found that the best way to prepare for meetings with mentees is to reflect on one’s own career—both the good and the bad decisions you’ve made—in order to give the best advice possible.
3. Get to Know Your Mentee
Another way to give the best advice possible is to get to know your mentee on a personal level. By understanding your mentee’s goals and what kind of work he or she likes, you will be able to personalize your advice for his or her professional growth. You will also be able to recommend appropriate continuing education or certification opportunities.
4. Be a Good Listener
How else can you get to know your mentee without being a good listener? We, as seasoned professionals, think we know everything about our careers and how to get ahead, so we might dominate the conversation with advice for our mentee. But sometimes, we need to take a backseat and listen to what our mentee has to say—such as his or her goals and ambitions. Being an active listener and responding more genuinely will make you a better mentor.
Mentorships shouldn’t be viewed as inconvenient; it should feel like a natural part of your job. Mentorships are rewarding not just because you’re helping your mentee but also because they help you in ways you may not immediately realize. I look at mentorships like a mutual coaching experience because, in talking with others, you find out a lot about yourself as well.