Becoming a Mentor

Three ways to influence new professionals in a more meaningful way

Mentoring is a two-way street. We need to seek mentors for ourselves to achieve our goals, but we also need to look for people to mentor. Becoming a mentor requires both people in the relationship to buy in to the process to ensure it will meet the goals of the mentee.

Whether you’re an experienced executive, entrepreneur or a new leader, throughout your career you should seek people to mentor. This doesn’t have to be an serious time commitment. Instead, you can simply set up a quick chat over the phone or connect virtually through social media outlets or virtual web meetings.

We can all remember what it was like when first starting out, or moving through different levels in our careers. I remember how valuable the connections I made early in my career were. I was fortunate enough to have a handful of managers to take notice of me early on and provide guidance when I needed it — even sometimes when I wasn’t looking for it — and to help me make important adjustments.

One of my mentors was not only my manager, but also my friend. She would give me feedback on how to navigate the corporate culture, and she’d provide me constructive criticism she heard from others so that I could either adjust or know what kind of impression I was making. Being a mentor does not always mean you are providing positive affirmations. Sometimes, it’s about delivering the more difficult feedback. I was humbled by my mentors’ experience and wisdom. In any ways, she helped me realize how much I had yet to learn, so that I was able to put everything into perspective, take a step back, and work harder as a result.

Much of what I do today is geared toward teaching and guidance. I have learned along the way that being an effective mentor is more than simply giving advice and encouragement. Meaningful mentorship involves understanding your mentee’s goals and strengths, and then finding ways to connect them with the skills or people that will help them get there. Ideally, this relationship will also foster upward feedback to help you become a better leader too.

Want to become a more effective mentor? Here are three easy ways to influence new professionals in a meaningful way.

Evaluate their strengths and opportunities

Set the relationship up for success by asking the right questions to find out what your mentee is interested in, what their goals are. Taking this time to get to know them as a unique individual will give you a better idea of whether you are the right person to help them reach their goals, or if you know someone in the same field who might be better suited to help them out. You may also ask for insight from people they work with so that you can provide anonymous feedback to highlight opportunity areas.

Mentor by example

Have you ever heard the phrase “do as I say, not as I do?” It’s one way of saying “I live a few steps above what I’m teaching you, and as you can see, everything I’m teaching you isn’t actually applicable in the real world.”

If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve gotta walk the walk as well. When it comes to teaching, you have to practice what you preach and always check yourself when you’re not. Being honest about the reality of what you have gone through in your own career can be invaluable to someone looking to follow your path. Rather than sugar coating it, provide a real-world perspective. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you wish you would’ve done differently, either — these lessons can often resonate just as much as the success stories.

 

Model inclusiveness

Many of us are forced to find our own path and create our own relationships when we start a new job. However, there is nothing better than a mentor who can show you the ropes, identify the right networking events to attend, and extend invites to lunch meetings. As a mentor, introducing your mentee to as many people as possible will help them meet leaders who may take interest in them as well. To mentor in a more meaningful way, tap in to your contacts and lead with empathy. If you’re going to an event that someone you’re mentoring is interested in or if you know a contact your mentee would be grateful to have, be generous with your invites and introductions. It always takes time to get your foot in the door, but even if it was difficult for you, you have to pass that frustration on.

Ultimately, learning how to mentor in a more meaningful way is about understanding the mentor-mentee relationship in a new light. Think about it as an opportunity to learn from a fresh perspective on your profession, and an opportunity to pay forward whatever kindness and connection someone showed to you along the way.