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Learn How to Be an Effective Mentor

Are you successful in your career? Do you like the idea of helping someone else achieve career success? Then check out what it takes to be an effective mentor.

If you’ve had a good relationship with a mentor, you know that mentoring can make a positive difference in someone’s career. Being a mentor can be good for your career as well.

There are different ways to become a mentor. You could be approached by someone looking for a mentor. You may find that a friendship with a colleague changes over time into a mentoring relationship. Your workplace may have a mentoring program and assign you a mentee. Or you might just decide you have a lot to offer, and volunteer to be a mentor.

What is mentoring?

Mentors are trusted advisors who have successful careers and proven track records. They are not usually paid for their services.

As a mentor, your role is to:

  • support your mentee
  • help your mentee develop a career that reflects their potential and goals
  • offer wisdom, knowledge, experience, constructive criticism, connections and resources
  • focus on your mentee’s overall career directions rather than on day-to-day concerns
  • set an example for the level of success your mentee hopes to achieve

A mentor and mentee don't need to be in the same workplace or even in the same field. The main thing is that some aspects of your career, such as your personal skills or problem solving abilities, make you worth learning from.

Why mentor?

People become mentors for a variety of reasons. You may:

  • have benefited from having a mentor and want to pass that benefit on to others
  • want to give back to your workplace, industry or community
  • want to build a reputation for developing new talent
  • value the perspective you gain by seeing yourself and your career through your mentee’s eyes

Mentoring can also help you stay current, bring new energy to your career and expand your network in new directions. You may be able to learn unexpected things from your mentee, who may have a fresher perspective.

Who will you mentor?

You want a mentee who is trustworthy, professional and ethical. Your mentee should be a good listener, ready for self-improvement, able to accept constructive criticism and willing to make the most of your time and energy. Remember, your mentee’s actions will reflect on you.

Be cautious before you agree to mentor someone:

  • Always meet a potential mentee before you agree to mentor them.
  • Only accept a mentee if it feels right.
  • Learn about your prospective mentee by asking around in your network.
  • Check out the mentee’s profile on business and social networking sites.

If you don’t think you can effectively mentor someone, tell that person right away so neither of you wastes time.

How do you manage the mentoring process?

Expect a mentee to describe his or her:

  • strengths, weaknesses and goals
  • ideas, conflicts and decisions
  • reasons for wanting to learn from you

Each mentoring relationship will be different. Typically, the process will involve you:

  • talking about your mistakes and successes
  • sharing what you wish you’d known when you were starting out
  • connecting your mentee to others who can be helpful
  • offering insights into how you make decisions, resolve conflicts and plan ahead
  • seeing things from your mentee’s point of view while providing feedback from your own

As a mentor, you decide when, where and how you want the mentoring process to continue. Think about these questions:

  • Do you want to meet only as needed or set specific times?
  • Will you guide your mentee by setting tasks and outcomes? Or will you just chat about your approaches?
  • Will you evaluate the process formally or just check from time to time that the relationship is still meeting both of your needs?

Over time, your mentee’s career will evolve. He or she may no longer need you as a mentor. At that point, your relationship may evolve into friendship.

What are the rewards of mentoring?

Becoming a mentor can be a rewarding outcome of your own successful career. Be wise about whom you choose to mentor. Set clear boundaries about what you expect. If you are open, ethical and supportive, you can establish a relationship with your mentee that will be a source of inspiration for both of you.

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