Being a mentor is no easy task. When you decide to take on, or accept a mentee, along with your role as a mentor comes responsibility, trust and commitment. It is a relationship premised on mutual give and take as any other relationship. What makes this relationship a little more special is the fact that you, as a mentor, will have the opportunity to observe and pilot and individual’s success story and hence, will be a crucial part of it. If you are a mentor, we may assume, to some extent that you are already familiar with some of the ‘must have skills’ for mentoring. Nevertheless, there is no harm in re-iterating them, especially for the sake of first-time mentors! Happy reading!
Approachability – By approachability we mean the quality which tells your mentee that you are always available for him/her. The mentee should not feel inhibited in approaching you. You may say, “well, I am always available!”, but you would be surprised how body language and non-verbal communication works to simply display the opposite. Make your mentee comfortable through initial ice-breaking sessions and work on building a rapport. Make the expectations you have from your mentee clear at the outset, in a polite way.
Listening Skills – As a mentor you will be responsible for a lot of talking, and even more listening. A lot of times, what the mentee really needs is to simply think aloud and that in itself solves most of his/her confusion. While words of wisdom are much needed, at times it is just giving your mentee the space and time to talk is what can do the magic!
Empathize and not sympathize- It is true that watching someone grow and learn and knowing you are an essential part of their journey feels amazing. During the tenure of your relationship with your mentee, you will witness the ups as well as the downs of your mentee’s professional (and maybe personal) graph. As a mentor it is your responsibility to offer encouragement and support. However, it is always more respectful and healthy to empathize rather than just sympathize. Going beyond being sympathetic and trying to do what may help, to your best ability, is the hallmark of a good mentor.
Honesty- Be honest to your mentee – about his performance, his attitude, his professional behavior or whatever you feel him knowing would help him develop as an individual. You owe your mentee an honest evaluation, it is a part of your job as a mentor, and it may not be all that pleasant always. Be honest about what is working and what is not working, i.e., the difficulties you are facing in mentoring your mentee, and if you would like him/her to put in more work. You could just shrug it off and tell yourself, “well, it isn’t really my problem”, but if you were a mentor who thought that way, you wouldn’t be here reading this post 🙂
Enthusiasm- The best way you can encourage your mentee is by being enthusiastic about his/her work. Enthusiasm is amazingly infectious, it rubs off. It shows your mentee that you are genuinely interested in his work and are willing to offer help in whatever way you can. It is a great way to spur your mentee on!
You may ask, “well, as the mentor, I am only to give, what do I get back?” You would be surprised how amazing it feels to see an individual prosper and know that a part of his success comes from your guidance. As you teach your mentee, you will learn too. You will gain a deeper understanding of yourself as a person and will discover strengths you did not know you had and will admit weaknesses you would want to work on. Above all, the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing your best to help build another individual’s career, will make you feel content. A fruitful mentor-mentee relationship takes a lot of hard work and patience for both, the mentor as well as the mentee. Of course, Rome was not built in a day!