7 Tips for Being a Better Mentor

TSP • @myTSPnet


Taking the first step into the real world is a memory that most people carry with them throughout their lives. One of the most valuable assets in a career is a strong voice of guidance and reason to help young adults maneuver the tricky path to success. A mentor can serve as a voice of reason, constructive criticism and a sounding board through that journey. Being a mentor can be a fulfilling experience for seasoned professionals who remember the struggle and hard work that got them to where they are today. By engaging with and encouraging young talent, mentors can make a significant change in a mentee’s life and career trajectory.

In fact, Garnter conducted a 2006 study that demonstrated the vast impact of mentoring on careers. Salary, for example, was a large factor affected by mentoring, in which 25% of participants in the mentoring program earned a pay raise in comparison to a mere 5% of nonparticipants. There are various tangible results related to a strong mentor/mentee relationship. Mentors provide young professionals with a new perspective and a level of wisdom that only years of experience can gain. But what makes a good mentor? Well, a multitude of things, but here are 7 tips to make you a better mentor. 

In this day and age, things come up on the fly. However, it’s important to stick to a schedule so that both the mentor and the mentee get the most out of the relationship. When meetings and calls are missed, the mentorship becomes low on the long list of priorities for both parties, and eventually can lead to the dissolution of the relationship as a whole.

As the mentor, it’s important that you set the agenda for each meeting, both to check in on the mentee and their progress, but also to keep yourself on track. Additionally, it’s essential to allow enough time at the end of each meeting for open discussion and questions. This will create a more personal relationship between you and your mentee and allow them to bring forth any new ideas they may have.

One of the most important aspects of a mentorship is tracking the mentee’s progress. It is imperative to set both long- and short-term goals for you to meet both as individuals and as a team. Additionally, allow for the mentee to set their own goals, which you can help tailor based on realistic expectations. In your initial meeting, have your mentee bring three overarching goals — these can be career based or ideal outcomes from the mentorship experience. During this process, ensure that these are reviewed often. Once a goal is created, it’s not set in stone. Rather, it can be developed or changed based on the progress and trajectory of the mentee.

Many people have larger-than-life goals, ones that have already been set in their minds for years. Unfortunately, these goals are sometimes unrealistic. As a mentor, you must be honest and straightforward in your discussions with your mentee. As you discuss and set goals, it’s imperative that you offer your honest advice and opinions. Not only will this create mutual respect between the two of you, but it’ll also allow the mentee to have a sharper focus on his or her abilities.

As a mentor, you have likely had much more experience than your mentee, and at times it may be difficult to truly listen — not just hear — what they have to say. In order for you to maximize your impact, you must be able to understand and absorb what they have to say. Being a good listener is an essential aspect of a mentorship. Active listening allows for candid conversations, which will allow you to get to know your mentee on a more personal level. This can help inform goals, decisions and recommendations between the two of you.

In order to understand how to have a productive mentor/mentee relationship, having a mentor yourself is key. Regardless of your age or professional status, there’s always someone who can offer you advice, criticism and assistance. In having a mentor yourself, you’ll gain a greater understanding of the process as a whole, and a greater level of respect for your mentee. Additionally, it’ll help provide clarity as to what does and does not work in terms of meetings, interactions and attitudes. Experiencing a mentorship through the eyes of a mentee gives you a new perspective, one that perhaps levels you with your mentee. This will lead to better communication and understanding.

This tip is necessary during the evolution of your relationship. In order to fully embrace your mentee, you should strive to show — rather than tell them — your advice. One way to do this is to bring your mentee along to networking events, which will allow them to utilize the tools you’ve provided to meet and interact with other professionals. Additionally, you can bring your mentee along with you to meetings, or even have them shadow you for a day.

In order to teach respect, you must emulate it yourself. Regardless of your stature in your business or industry, respecting those above and below you is critical. Your mentee will see this behavior, recognize it and emulate it themselves. Additionally, showing respect will make your mentee prouder and more confident in the work they do and how they carry themselves. Loyalty and employee happiness are directly correlated with the level of respect people feel from their superiors, in this case the respect your mentee feels from you.

Being a mentor is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in your professional life. Be sure to keep these tips in mind to ensure that you are giving your mentee the best possible experience and guiding your mentee to his or her most successful self. Remember, you too were once in your mentee’s shoes, so start your next mentee meeting by sharing the answer to this question: what do I know now that I wish I knew then?