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Think before you leap.
Recent studies have demonstrated the abundant benefits of being a career mentor to others — including greater compensation growth and career advancement — but, do you have what it takes to be a mentor?
Mentoring is not for everyone – it takes an investment of time, a commitment to help others, and a lot of patience. But, it can also be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Here are three things to consider before becoming a mentor as well as Do’s and Don’ts should you decide to move forward.
3 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Mentor
Am I ready to be someone’s mentor? Almost anyone can become a mentor to help another person maximize career potential, but there are definitely characteristics that stand out when analyzing successful mentors. For example, mentors should be comfortable providing honest, constructive feedback, have excellent listening skills, and have the experience necessary to discuss a wide range of topics and situations or the expertise to dive deep into a specific subject.
Do I have the time available? Mentoring often requires an on-going commitment of time. It’s a bit like investing in the stock market only instead of money, you’re investing your time and betting that, with your help, your mentee will be able to progress forward in his or her career. One of the main reasons I see mentor relationships falter is due to the time commitment.
What might I learn from mentoring relationships? Mentoring shouldn’t be a one-way street. The best mentoring relationships are where both parties benefit, not just the mentee. This is also known as ‘reciprocal mentoring.’ As a mentor, are you willing to assess your weaknesses/failures and discuss these with mentees who have expertise in these areas, such as social media or technology trends?
If after considering these aspects you decide you want to be a mentor, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to follow.
Set expectations: Establish a good mentoring relationship by discussing the expectations your mentee has of you as well as the expectations you have of your mentee.
Establish the rules: Be open with your mentee on how much time you’ll have available, agree on when and where you’ll hold discussions, and discuss the need for confidentiality of conversations.
Teach, don’t tell: Help mentees determine answers for themselves by learning to ask the kinds of questions that allow them to explore their situation — instead of telling them what to do, try asking, “What do you think are some ways you could…?”
Be open and honest: Use your own experiences, successes, and failures to help your mentee learn.
Provide all the answers: Help your mentee think through hurdles and barriers and come up with plans on how to overcome them. Listen to understand, not reply.
Immediately open up your network: Work with your mentee until you fully understand his or her knowledge, skills, experience, and ethics and are comfortable sharing appropriate networking opportunities. Taking the time to build trust is essential because mentors place their own reputation on the line when recommending mentees for job opportunities.
Violate confidentiality: The mentoring relationship must be built on mutual trust and respect, including keeping all discussions confidential.
Bottom line: Being a mentor is well worth the effort. So pay it forward by being a career mentor — just make sure you’ve thought it through first and take the time to define the framework (expectations, rules, and timing) with your mentee.