Recently, a young women whom I’ve never met reached out to me (hurray for social networking!) to meet for coffee and pick my brain, as she was only a few months into her first “real” job. Having worked in a (wide) variety of marketing positions over the last seven years (creeping your social media footprint to form a bio of someone is no longer weird, it’s expected), this young woman felt that I had some career insights to share with her. I was honored that she would even consider me to be in the position to help her. Determined to make sure that she got value out of our coffee date, I researched and reflected on my experiences trying to find mentors, and what I could do to deliver what this young grasshopper was looking for (even if she didn’t quite know it). Here are my ten key commandments to being a great mentor.
1. Research them first
They’ve probably googled you and before your first meeting with them, you should google them too. Their online presence (or lack thereof) coupled with how they present themselves in person should give you a nice 360 degree view of who they are professionally.
2. Remember that they are people too
Your mentee is not perfect, no one is. They’ve probably made career mistakes and blunders. If they’re able to be accountable for their actions and learn from them, that’s a clear indication that they’re ready to receive whatever wisdom you’re about to impart on them.
Some people love to hear themselves talk. After all, they reached out to you because you’re awesome and they want to learn how to be awesome too, right? Yes, but sitting back, and listening is an important part of mentoring. Your mentee needs a safe place to feel heard and express not just joy, but frustration too. Listen empathetically, and listen actively.
4. Do as you say and as you do
If you don’t “practice what you preach” you lose your credibility.
5. Give assignments
We’re not asking them to write essays and reports, but it’s a good idea to recommend further reading (relevant books, blogs, etc.) or to take some kind of action that will move the mentee closer to their goals.
6. Nudge, don’t push
At the end of the day, it’s all up to the mentee what how they use the information and advice and their determination should drive what actions they take, if any at all, you shouldn’t have feel like you’re forcing or pushing them to do anything. A gentle nudge in the right direction will do just fine.
7. Expect nothing in return
Whether you realize it or not, you didn’t get this far along in your own life and career without a bit help and guidance along the way. This is your chance to give back – call it career karma.
8. Remember it goes both ways
While you shouldn’t expect anything in return, having a mentee can be beneficial to you. It helps widen your network, spot potential talent, and provide you with new perspectives.
9. Stay committed
There’s nothing worse than an unanswered email. If you’re swamped, and it happens, it’s perfectly okay to let your mentee know and to tell them when your calendar will free up.
10. Follow up, but not too much
Checking in at least once a month to once every few months is great. But in general, the eb and flow of this new relationship is guided by the resourcefulness and determination of the mentee. If they’re ambitious, open, and feel that they can learn a lot from you then they’ll regularly reach out to you no matter what.
By following these ten mentoring commandments, you can ensure that your mentee is getting the most out of your interactions, which, aside from some of the benefits mentioned earlier, can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
Do you have any more mentoring “commandments”?