Think back to an important person in your life who has guided and supported you. What made them a good mentor?
Here is some practical advice on how to mentor effectively:
- Be available: Mentoring cannot happen if either party is unresponsive. Be sure to reply to your mentee in a timely manner and inform them in advance if you cannot make a scheduled meeting. Don't wait for your mentee to contact you, be proactive!
- Show that you care: Take time to get to know your mentee--what’s going on in their life, what they are passionate about, what is troubling them. Ask about these things in your meetings, and demonstrate care through action. An invitation to an event that might be of interest to your mentee will make them feel valued.
- Maintain trust: It is extremely important to respect the privacy of your mentee and not gossip about what they may share with you. If your mentee is reluctant to open up at first, don’t be discouraged; instead, let them know you are someone they can speak to confidentially.
- Keep an open mind: As a mentor, understand that your experience may differ from your mentee, and what worked for you may not necessarily work for them. Take time to fully understand your mentee’s perspective before offering your own input. Good mentors act as a sounding board and allow mentees to make the decision that is right for them.
- Balance listening and sharing: Communication in a mentoring relationship goes both ways. While your mentee will appreciate hearing your experience, be sure to listen to what they have to say. Listening without interruption shows you are interested in the other person's thoughts and feelings.
- Act as a bridge: Good mentors know that they are not the only source of authority on questions or concerns their mentees may have. By capitalizing on your network of contacts and knowledge of resources, you can refer a mentee to another person that could also be of help to them..
- Provide constructive feedback: In addition to providing support and encouragement, effective mentors offer their mentees suggestions or tactfully challenge them on an idea or assumption. Such constructive feedback allows mentees to see an issue from a different perspective and continue to grow.