How To Take On A Mentoring Role
As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve found that one of the most rewarding things I can do is find talented people and help them develop along their own professional journeys. Many people begin mentoring on an unofficial basis by just offering advice or chatting with those around them. But as you grow and become more successful and comfortable in your own skin, you may find you want to give back some of what you’ve learned in an official capacity.
This is also something I recommend to people who feel like they’ve reached a plateau in their own careers. If you feel like your job has lost a little of its excitement, mentoring can offer a new challenge for you, outside of your regular duties. And because you’re not managing the person you mentor, you can have an entirely different relationship with them than you do with your direct reports. In fact, you don’t even need to work at the same company as the person you end up mentoring. And if you’re not currently managing a team, mentoring can provide valuable experience that you can carry with you into your next career role. So as you can see, mentoring benefits you in addition to your mentee.
How do you get into mentoring? Maybe someone reaches out to you directly and asks to meet for an informational interview or to get your feedback. If you spot someone at the office who is talented but inexperienced, you can offer to sit down with them over a cup of coffee and discuss whatever projects they’re working on and challenges they’re facing. Or, if you’re lucky, your office already has a mentoring system set up, which matches experienced mentors with up-and-coming mentees. If not, consider trying to set a system up yourself.
However, you get involved in the process, keep in mind that the focus should always be on your mentee. You can share your own experiences and the challenges you faced or are currently facing, but this should always be with the intention of helping your mentee grow and learn. Before you tell them how you solved a particularly tricky problem in your past, ask them their opinion on what they would have done. Ask them to put themselves in your shoes and analyze the situation. Similarly, if they come to you asking for your advice, help them think through the different scenarios and possibilities without telling them the answer (or what you think the answer should be anyway). Your job is not to fix everything for them or to know all the solutions. Instead, the best thing you can do is to help them develop their analytical and critical thinking skills so they can arrive at the correct conclusions on their own.
Some other ways you can help your mentee… Work on long-term professional goal setting with them. Set them up with other contacts in the field who may be useful. Invite them to important meetings so they can observe and learn. If you’re like me, you’ll find this to be a rewarding experience. To learn more about mentoring, feel free to contact me here.