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How to Be a Real Mentor


If you’ve been approached to mentor someone, you’ve been given an amazing opportunity to guide your mentee’s career, to impart your wisdom, to help them in their aspirations. In addition to being recognized for your achievements, and being valued for your experience, the opportunity to mentor someone relatively new in their career can be a mutually enriching association.

helping coworker

(Photo Credit: liviana1992/Flickr)

If you’d like to take your role as a mentor seriously and make a meaningful contribution to the mentor-mentee relationship, here’s what you should do:

Do You Know What You're Worth?

1. Understand that your mentee is different from you

Yes, the reason you’ve been asked to mentor is because you have these amazing achievements and habits that are acknowledged and appreciated. But when you are mentoring someone, the idea is not to create another you, it’s to identify their strengths and guide them to their own achievements. Share your experiences and your approach to problems, but don’t force it onto your mentee, let her approach her career in a way that’s best suited to her situation and personality.

2. Acknowledge that it’s a two-way relationship

There are going to opportunities for you to learn from your mentee, too, whether it’s the latest in social media, the next best thing in the world of technology or entertainment, even the new curriculum followed in schools “these days.” Approach the relationship as a mutually benefiting one, and seize the opportunities to learn. This will also help build  confidence in your mentee that you are interested in what she has to share, too.

3. Commit to the relationship

It’s not about one day a week or every other week, and it is not about filling out forms and tracking discussions. The mentoring relationship goes way beyond the details. You are committing to help your mentee when they need your help. So make the effort to be their advocates and help them with their goals. This could mean connecting them to your business contacts, sharing resources, etc. This also means that you are prepared for your meetings and are doing what you’re saying you’ll do.

4. Be somebody they can look up to

Create positive behavioral experiences with your mentee. Share how approaching different situations with the right attitude can lead to success. Your mentee will look up to you for guidance and these experiences count in shaping how they will approach their work and long term career.

5. Be available and genuinely interested

This does not mean just showing up on time; this means being in the moment, listening, and understanding your mentee and her situation. Practice active listening, and be empathetic toward her situation, so she is able to understand that you are genuinely interested in helping her succeed. Be non-judgmental and offer advice when you really see the need. It’s often best to help your mentee figure it out herself but in certain situations, she would really benefit from your counsel, and being available makes that happen.

Tell Us What You Think

How you had a mentor or have you mentored before? What really helped the relationship? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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