Last year I was approached as an alumnus of The University of Reading to become a ‘Thrive Career Mentor’ for the academic year. The mentor is frequently that go-to person for career advice, opinions on a LinkedIn profile or resume, or just validation that a friend is ‘moving in the right direction.’ I agreed, without any hesitation. Taking the opportunity to work with two undergraduates on their own personal journey has been inspiring. I have resolved that ultimately, you will learn more about yourself that you ever thought you would. Mentoring enables personal leadership and develops clarity in your communication, as you share your own experiences and knowledge.
Here are my 6 top tips on how to be a good mentor.
1 | Be a positive role model.
Positive behavior is key. Your mentee will learn a great deal just by watching your behavior in your environment. If there is scope to include them in the workplace, try to create situations that enable your mentee to participate. Perhaps they could shadow you for a day to gain insight through a ‘behind the scenes’ look. This is not only a brilliant new learning experience that raises your credibility as a mentor, it also allows your mentee to observe how you interact with others and deal with potential challenging situations. It’s an opportunity to illustrate what type of professional you are.
2 | Share your vision.
Do you have a personal goal or ambition? Share it with your mentee! Nothing is more inspiring than someone that speaks passionately about what excites them. In turn, it creates common ground between you and your mentee by breaking the ice and creating a collaborative atmosphere. Naturally your mentee will want to know about your journey: how you have done things, what you have learned and how you would improve on things in the future. Help them to channel their enthusiasm and aspirations by sharing your story – it’s amazing what lessons people can learn from you.
3 | Seek first to understand.
Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can be applied to career mentoring – “seek first to understand and then be understood.” At the start of a mentor/mentee collaboration, it is key to set a good foundation of mutual understanding. Aim to figure out what your mentee aims to achieve and share with them what you hope to offer to guide them on their journey. If you don’t understand why your mentee wants to collaborate with you or what they want to get out of the partnership, it will be difficult to shape the way that you work with them. Mentoring is an exchange. It’s a collaboration between two individuals building a solid relationship of support through clear communication.
4 | Provide a fresh perspective.
We live in a world of open possibilities. Encourage your mentee to think outside the box. There are thousands of opportunities on offer and a wide range of routes to pursue them. Take a genuine interest in your mentee as an individual – get to know them and allow them to explore their ideas openly. Discuss things that can help to clarify their thoughts and provide an open forum to share any concerns that they may have. Ask lots of questions; choices can be difficult, so share your wisdom and explore your mentees thoughts without making decisions for them.
5 | Only offer advice when asked.
There is a fine balance between mentoring and coaching. Ultimately, you are there to support your mentee by creating an environment for them to discuss their goals aspirations. That’s right – listening is the most important skill that you can exercise as a mentor. It can be tempting to tell a mentee how to do something or direct them to pursue something that will contribute to their success; however, action starts from within. It’s personal. The more you tell someone how to do something and what to do, the more responsibility you take away from them. Let your mentee work through a difficult problem and support them by asking questions, prompting them to think about potential resolutions and outcomes on their own.
6 | Celebrate achievement.
It seems obvious, but how often do we practice positive self-talk and celebrate our own achievements? The position of mentor enables you to recall the conversations that you have had with your mentee and remind them of where they have been successful. This recall exercise is a form of positive reinforcement. It shows that you are listening to them. Success can be defined in many different ways, but essentially, any instance where your mentee has done something out of the ordinary, big or small, make sure it is rewarded with celebration.
One core element that binds mentors together in terms of attitude, is an unwavering desire for another person to achieve. Being a mentor will be one of the best personal projects that you can engage in, described by Fortune.com as “a project with tangible results: the success of your mentee.“
You can find out more about career mentoring here.