By Sharon Schweitzer
As a young professional, my mentors were crucial to my educational, emotional, and intellectual growth. My mentors have encouraged me to earn my undergraduate and law degrees, study abroad, travel the globe, and specialize in my industry. Having had the benefit of wise mentors throughout my education and career, I am filled with gratitude and cherish their time with me. As a young student or current professional, the benefits of being a mentor or protégé are limitless.
Mentorship involves acting as a trusted advisor that provides questions, insight, and advice to help another succeed personally and professionally. Mentors may be colleagues, coaches, colleagues, friends, or relatives. If you are considering a mentorship role or want to discover new help for your mentee, consider these six steps.
- Setting goals. Determine your mentee’s goals, aspirations, and needs at the outset. This helps to develop relevant advice appropriate to their unique situation. Are they beginning in their industry and seeking guidance about navigating organizational culture? Transitioning into a new role or take on more responsibility? Ask questions about their long-term vision and determine how to encourage them.
- Establishing 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 and confirm a channel of communication that allows you to stay current with their progress, setbacks, and obstacles. Open dialogue will ensure that you are a reliable source of guidance throughout your mentee’s journey.
- Building a relationship. Take an interest in your mentee as an individual and spend time getting to know them personally. What makes them who they are? What are their personality traits, work style, goals, and anxieties? Construct your advice according to them and their needs. Getting to know your mentee on a personal level will also strengthen the trust and understanding in your relationship, building a lifelong bond.
- Listening actively. Being a mentor is about more than just offering your expertise. Take the time to actively listen to your mentee’s perspective instead of thinking of what you are going 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.
- Admitting errors. While none of us enjoy unearthing our past mistakes; that professional blunder you made a decade ago could become a modern lesson for your mentee. Show humility by being transparent with your own faults to allow others to learn from your experiences and avoid similar mistakes. Your mentee will also appreciate your honesty and grow to trust you more deeply.
- Celebrating each step. Let your mentee know that they always have somebody in their corner by being there for them every step of the way. When a mentee achieves a professional goal or reaches a personal realization, express your confidence at every opportunity. A word of encouragement or an acknowledgement of their hard work lets 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 offer indispensable support during change and transition. If you fill this pivotal role in a mentee’s life, enjoy the journey.
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. 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. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.
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