As a young student or current professional, the benefits of being a mentor or protege are limitless.
Inaugurated in January 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and endorsed in 2016 by President Barack Obama, National Mentoring Month calls our country’s leaders to lend a guiding hand to mentor prospective leaders.
Mentorship involves acting as a trusted advisor to provide insight, wisdom, and advice to help others succeed personally and professionally. A Mentor may be a colleague, coach, international business professional from another industry or country, relative, or friend. They lend their wisdom in many ways. If you are considering a mentorship role, or discovering new ways to encourage your mentee, consider these six steps for developing key mentorship skills.
- Setting goals: Determine your mentee’s goals, aspirations, and needs at the outset of the mentorship. This helps develop relevant questions or advice appropriate to their unique situation. Are they new to the field and seeking guidance on navigating company culture? Are they transitioning into a new role or taking on more responsibility? Ask questions about their long-term vision. Would any assessments, inventories, or profiles be insightful? Determine how to best guide them.
- Have expectations. Work together with your mentee to develop mutual expectations. What do they need from you as a mentor? Establish how often you will communicate with your mentee. Develop a communication channel allowing you to stay current on their progress, setbacks, and obstacles. Open dialogue between the two of you will ensure that you are a reliable source of guidance throughout your mentee’s journey.
- Let’s get personal: Take an interest in your mentee as an individual, and spend time getting to know them personally – learn their personality. What makes them who they are? What are their personality traits, work style, goals, and anxieties? Construct your advice according to their individual needs. Getting to know your mentee on a personal level will also strengthen the trust and understanding in your relationship, building a lifelong bond.
- Listen first: Being a mentor is about more than just asking questions and offering expertise. Take time to actively listen to your mentee’s perspective instead of thinking of what to say next. Although you may feel obligated to give helpful advice right away, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is listen, ask questions, and give your mentee the opportunity to express themselves openly.
- It’s ok to make mistakes: No one likes dragging up their past errors. However, that professional blunder you made a decade ago could become a modern lesson for your mentee. Being open about your own faults allows others to learn from your experiences and avoid similar mistakes. Your mentee will also appreciate the honesty that it takes to share your past, and grow to trust you more deeply.
- Celebrate good times: Let your mentee know that they have someone in their corner by being there for them every step of the way. Whether they achieve a professional goal, or reach a personal realization, express your confidence and pride at every opportunity. Sometimes all that’s needed is encouragement or acknowledgement of hard work. As a mentor, find moments to let your mentee know that you have full faith in their future.
In the words of U. S. American politician John C. Crosby, mentoring is “a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Mentors come in many forms and offer indispensable support during times of transition. If you’re called to fill this pivotal role in someone’s life, follow these six tips to provide the guidance and insight they deserve.
Sharon Schweitzer and Sophie Echeverry co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Sophie Echeverry is the Corporate Marketing Manager and Event Coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Sophie has co-written more than 30 blogs since graduation. She’s a passionate foodie, and an avid e-scooter rider. Follow her foodie Instagram account or Connect with her on LinkedIn.