How to Be a Good Mentor

How to Be a Mentor

Being a mentor is an invaluable opportunity not only to share your knowledge and wisdom to help a person grow in their career, but also to gain more insight and relevance in the field yourself, as you practice communicating and assisting someone in navigating the industry. But what are some traits that make a good mentorship? Below, we have eight tips on how to be a mentor.

Get to know your mentee and their situation

One of the first things you’ll want to do as a mentor is to get to know your mentee. Perhaps there’s a certain communication style they prefer, or maybe they’re currently in a particular situation that will inform the approach you take and advice you give. When talking, ask questions about them and be an active listener — take care to really pay attention to and absorb what they’re saying, rather than focusing on what you’re going to say next.

Help your mentee define their goals

Mentorship is difficult when it’s unclear exactly what the mentee wants, so it’s important to sit down with them and create fully-defined outlines of their goals. Understand what their career aspirations are and what they’re hoping to get out of the partnership. This way, you can be strategic in your plans, avoiding items that may be unnecessary or even impede them from getting to where they really want to be.

Set expectations

Then, you’ll both need to set definitive expectations for how the mentorship will work. When and how will you communicate? Will you count on each other to be on time, be prepared with certain action items, or maintain particular boundaries within the relationship? Knowing what’s called for will enable you to make sure the mentorship is beneficial to you both.

Let the mentee lead

However valuable your knowledge and experience is, you also don’t want to prevent your mentee from learning things on their own. If you always proactively tell them what to do before they even get a chance to approach a task themselves, you’re taking away opportunities for them to think through challenges and learn how to work things out themselves, which will be key for their growth. Remember to be a guide for your mentee, rather than simply dictating everything for them.

Share your own stories

At times, it can be helpful for someone to hear personal accounts from a person who’s been through what they’re going through themselves. Not only does it provide insights into how somebody else handled things, but it shows that they’re not alone in what they’re facing and helps build a more personal connection between you. So don’t shy away from talking about your own relevant experiences and how you handled things (whether successfully or unsuccessfully) when you were in their shoes.

Focus on the little things as well as the big things

When we think of mentors, we often think about someone giving grand, sweeping advice on navigating the big career steps. Just as crucial, though, is paying attention to the little steps they’ll also have to take. Maybe they need help crafting a specific email or knowing what to wear to different types of industry events. As a mentor, you’ll want to fill in all of their knowledge gaps, no matter how big or small, in order to help them reach their goals.

Offer both encouragement and constructive criticism

Breaking into a new career can be incredibly stressful and nerve-racking. So, be sure to retain a positive attitude in order to keep them uplifted and encouraged. On the other hand, it’s also important to stay practical and realistic — be honest with them, and offer constructive criticism wherever it’s needed. After all, the point of a mentor is to help someone grow, and the only way to do that is to let them know what areas need improvement.

Hold each other accountable

Trust is an essential factor in a mentorship, and one way to ensure that trust is cultivated is to hold each other accountable to the previously-set expectations. If you say that you’re going to do something within a certain timeframe, do just that, and keep your mentee answerable to their commitments as well. Doing so will help maintain a balanced relationship that’s useful for everyone, makes certain no one’s time is wasted, and is built on a trust that you both will keep to your words.

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