A mentor is not a teacher, but one of your roles is to encourage learning. Use this site, your experience, and your network to help you provide relevant resources to your mentee. You do not need all the answers, but you can guide your mentee to resources or people that can help them.
We all know how to listen—or so we think. Active listening takes practice. Keep your attention on what your mentee is saying, and do not jump ahead to thinking about what you want to say. Practice not jumping in and waiting until they are done speaking. It can feel like you have the perfect answer right now, but let your mentee finish their thoughts. When you give your full attention, you will have better discussions.
Mentoring requires that your mentee opens up and discusses their challenges with you. A good way to reciprocate this openness and build a trusting relationship is to be open with your mentee. You and your mentee should never feel expected to share more than you are comfortable. But talking about your personal and professional lives can make you both more comfortable with each other.
It is tempting to provide answers to your mentee, but instead, ask questions. Questions guide your mentee to clarify their thinking and often guide them to their own answers. This helps to keep the focus on your mentee and it helps them to find solutions that are right for them and their experience.
It is easy to lean into our own experience and stories during a discussion with our mentees. But keep in mind that ultimately it is not about about you. If we spend too much time recounting our own experiences or explaining how we solved a similar challenge in our past, we put the focus on ourselves. These experiences can definitely be helpful to your mentee, but if you are talking more about your experiences than the mentee’s situation, it may then be time to return the focus to them.
Although you want to keep the focus on your mentee, they might ask for your experience or insight. Use those times to share what you have learned, but emphasize that your experience can be different from theirs. Use your experience to prompt discussion about different perspectives for your mentee.
We all get stuck in our own perspective. Having a mentor is a good way for us to change our patterns of thinking. Pay attention to your mentee’s patterns. For example, if they tend to focus on facts, challenge them to examine their feelings about a topic. Or if they focus on details, challenge them to look at the big picture. Encourage them to see alternative perspectives.
You may find that your mentee makes choices that you do not agree with. Ultimately, they are responsible for their choices. Different choices can lead to different paths to success. Or they may be open to reflection of why something is not working if their choices do not succeed.
Set goals and set tasks for each other. Be responsible for completing your own tasks but expect your mentee to complete their work too. Usually your mentee will need to complete tasks such as review resources, prepare resumes, and apply for jobs in between meetings. By following up to make sure these are completed, you are supporting your mentee’s success.
A successful mentoring relationship should be satisfying. It is okay if your relationship focuses solely on work or engages in more personal connections. Be focused on your goals for mentoring but enjoy building the relationships and the success you find together.
Want to Know More? Read more about the Stages of Mentorship or learn What to Do in Your First Meeting.