Whenever I am asked to think about my mentoring experiences, it is an automatic habit to think of times I have been mentored. But the truth is, I have mentored as well. Recently, a good friend of mine's daughter graduated from college with a Communications Degree. I began mentoring her when she was a senior, making recommendations like getting on LinkedIn and reaching out to everyone and anyone she knew to let them know what type of work she'd be looking for when she graduated. Since I have a career in marketing, I assumed she would listen to everything I had to say like it was gold. She didn't. Well, not at first anyway. Here are three things I've learned in my most recent mentoring experience:
1. Make sure the person you are mentoring actually wants to be mentored. I realized early on during our relationship that said friend's daughter didn't necessarily want my advice. Her mother wanted me to give her advice, but she wasn't ready to listen. Until the mentoree is ready to partake in the relationship and give to it fully, it will feel like you are banging your head against a wall. If you are part of a corporate mentoring program and have been paired with a mentoree, there are questions you can ask at the beginning of the engagement that will not only start the relationship off in a positive light, but will also determine the goals and outcomes of the mentoring relationship. We have written a great blog post on this topic titled How to Prepare for Your Meeting With Your Mentor. It's a great post for both mentors and mentorees starting off in a new relationship.
2. She may not be ready, but keep the door open so she can come back to you when she is. My mentoree saw the light—eventually. Something clicked with her and she realized what a gold mine I was for her to have in her back pocket. Not only am I in the field she wants to be in, but I could possibly open doors for her that her parents and her college professors could not. I could share experiences and setbacks I have had in my career. I could introduce her to companies and people that may be interested in hiring an entry-level marketer. The lesson here: as a mentor, always keep your door open. The relationship may have ups and downs and peaks and valleys, but if your mentoree can trust that she can come back to you at any time in her career, well, that is a true mentoring relationship.
3. Build them up, don't put them down. It should go without saying that as a mentor your job is to encourage your mentoree to reach for the stars. They are in a mentoring relationship with you because you have knowledge or connections or experiences that they don't have. You were in their shoes once: starting out in your career or learning a new skill. It can be a scary and overwhelming time when you don't know what lies ahead. Reassure your mentoree and help her to gain confidence in her abilities, her skills and herself. This is your ultimate job as a mentor and you will likely find it to be as equally rewarding an experience for you as it is for her.
At Management Mentors, we have a fantastic e-learning course for mentors and mentorees. I would highly recommend if you are embarking on a mentoring relationship either as a mentor or as a mentoree, that you suggest that the two of you take this course to enhance the mentoring experience so that you both are able to get the most out of it.