Many things may come to mind when you think of professional development, like a big promotion or a much-deserved raise. However, career success and development should be defined by what you find professionally fulfilling, whether that is climbing the corporate ladder or contributing meaningful work. One way that many experienced professionals achieve career fulfillment is by becoming a mentor.
Mentorship can be considered a form of investing in the workplace. Much like you might invest your income to grow your wealth, you can contribute your time and energy into the growth of both people in the mentorship. If you’re taking on a mentee for the very first time, learn how to be a mentor that makes a difference with these 27 tips.
Feel free to jump down to the infographic for a visual breakdown of common mentoring styles, the benefits of mentorship, top qualities, and ways you can help influence someone’s career.
What Is a Mentor?
A mentor is an individual who provides guidance and advice over an extended period of time to someone with less experience, otherwise known as the mentee. Mentors are supposed to share their expertise and knowledge, answer questions, and help support their mentee’s personal and professional growth.
Benefits of Being a Mentor
The career advantages that mentoring brings mentees are often discussed in popular media, but it’s important to acknowledge that mentors reap many benefits as well. Career advisor Micheal Gilmore said, “Employees who serve as mentors also report greater job satisfaction and greater career success [and] more than half receive salary increases over time.”
Read more about how mentorship has the potential to influence your salary, your ability to climb the corporate ladder, and your journey to personal fulfillment.
1. Increased Salary Potential
Investing your time and effort into mentoring can literally pay off. A longitudinal study by
Sun Microsystems found that those who were mentors were 20 percent more likely to
receive a pay raise than those who weren’t. If you’re looking for ways to help boost your
salary, mentoring might just help you get there.
2. Higher Likelihood of Promotion
Mentoring also correlates with successful career movement. The same study found that the likelihood of mentors being promoted was six times higher than non-mentors. Experiences from mentoring often hone skills that are valued at leadership levels such as motivating and supervising others.
3. Enhanced Personal Fulfillment
Finally, mentorship can offer immense personal satisfaction. For many mentors, personal fulfillment came from the ability to give back and watch mentees grow. Professor of Business Law at the University of Connecticut Robert Bird said, “The greatest benefit to being a mentor is the joy of watching a mentee thrive.”
Quality Mentor Traits
When it comes to what makes a good mentor, it’s helpful to know what traits are valued by mentees. Here is a list of some of the important traits a mentor could have:
- Willingness to help
- Openness to ideas
- Expertise in their field
- Capacity for feedback
Ways To Be a Good Mentor at Work
Mentors shouldn’t just have quality characteristics; they should also be able to demonstrate them. In this section, we’ll explore the three A’s of mentorship: active listening, availability, and analysis. Additionally, learn how to lead by example by following these tips to be a career-changing mentor at work.
1. Ask About Career Goals
At its core, traditional mentorship is about an experienced professional guiding a mentee’s career and personal growth. As such, it should make the needs of the mentee a priority. The best way a mentor can prioritize their mentee’s needs is by simply asking them.
Get to know them and ask questions about their career goals, what they want to improve on, who they’d like to connect with, and how they like to receive feedback. Their answers will help guide your mentorship so you can best support them in their evolution and growth. Help them turn their career goals into specific, measurable objectives to accomplish over time.
2. Adapt Your Mentoring Style
Once you’ve learned all about their goals and preferences, it’s important to adapt your mentoring style to fit their needs. Does your mentee want to take more risks and accelerate their growth? Be the person that will challenge them to get out of their comfort zone or try new things. Or if they’re good at what they do and occasionally need advice, try a more hands-off approach to show them that you trust their direction.
3. Learn About the Types of Mentors
There are many different types of mentors that exist, and your capabilities and experience may mean you’re not the right one for a certain mentee. Check out five common types of mentors below and see which one you might be best at.
- The Cheerleader: This type of mentor keeps their mentee motivated to get where they need to go. They boost their mentee’s confidence when they’re discouraged and provide support when they need it. Cheerleaders are great at celebrating successes and picking you up when you lose.
- The Companion: Companions are closer to being peer mentors. This mentor style is collaborative and open to giving and receiving feedback. They may even be peer mentors that are at a similar job level.
- The Search Engine: If you’re a go-to resource for industry knowledge, you may be a Search Engine. You act as an educator, sharing what you know based on your experience or providing information about current processes or trends.
- The Advocate: Your mentee might really value making connections and showcasing their work, and the best type of mentor you could be is an Advocate. These mentors advocate for their mentee’s work ethic and character and leverage their network to open the right doors.
- The Master: As the mentor name suggests, Masters are experts at what they do. They can share their mastery with their mentee by teaching them skills and helping them cultivate their own expertise.
4. Be Available for Your Mentee
An important part of a mentorship is the time you invest in your mentee. A good mentor is available when needed and reasonably prioritizes the relationship. Time is valuable, so make sure that with every phone call, meeting, or email, you’re providing adequate attention to your mentee and their growth.
5. Try Out Reverse Mentoring
Reverse mentoring puts a spin on traditional mentoring by having the junior level individual mentor the more senior individual. Although you may have a traditional mentorship, feel free to switch up your strategy for a week or even a month and have your mentee try mentoring you.
Co-Founder and COO of Gainful Eric Wu stated, “You can get a fresh perspective from someone who is just starting out, and they may also have some insight about the future of your industry or see trends you may not have noticed before.” This strategy can foster collaboration between both of you and even drive innovation in your careers.
6. Set Clear Expectations
In order for a mentorship to be successful, clear expectations are necessary. As the mentor, you should outline your boundaries early. If you intend for the mentorship to be strictly professional, let your mentee know. Additionally, allow your mentee to set their own expectations for your relationship and create boundaries as needed.
7. Brainstorm Ideas
Be someone that your mentee can come to with their wildest dreams and ideas. Brainstorm together and act as a sounding board and voice of reason. Not every idea they have will be successful, but it’s important to be a mentor who allows them to think for themselves and doesn’t stifle creativity.
8. Give Constructive Criticism With Kindness
You’ll be expected to give feedback to your mentee on their work, ideas, and growth. It’s important to be honest yet constructive with any feedback you may share. Remember that it’s OK to give criticism — in fact, it’s your responsibility as a mentor. However, try to offer actionable critiques and communicate them with kindness.
9. Make Connections Professionally
Sometimes, you may not be able to offer the advice or experience that your mentee needs. If that is the case, look to your network and make introductions to people who have the relevant expertise. Those connections will help your mentee grow their network and provide other valuable opportunities to propel their growth.
10. Give Help Readily
Professor Alexander Lowry from Gordon College said, “The goal [of mentoring] is altruistic, not Machiavellian. The intent is to pay it forward.” Readily give help to your mentees when they ask for it, and offer guidance with their best career interests in mind. Even though you may benefit from the relationship, your main goal should be to further their career and not necessarily your own.
11. Balance Advice and Autonomy in Decision-Making
When it comes to decision-making, your mentee will look to you for guidance. Feel free to offer your wisdom, but also give them the freedom to make the final decision themselves. This will allow them to operate autonomously in their career but also help them when they need it.
12. Share Your Story
Be willing to share your own journey of personal or professional growth. Let them know about your triumphs and areas that you struggle with professionally. This can help them feel comfortable with you and normalize that there will be both positive and tough experiences. Additionally, sharing your story can be inspirational to someone who hasn’t achieved everything you have yet.
13. Be Empathetic
Empathy is a prized quality in the workplace. In disagreements, it allows us to seek to understand the other person’s perspective, and that insight will influence how you move forward or find common ground. This trait is also helpful when offering constructive criticism or when providing support during difficult times.
14. Challenge Your Mentee To Leave Their Comfort Zone
Mentors are meant to help propel their mentee’s growth. Do this by encouraging them to take risks, no matter how big or small. Push them to try new responsibilities or explore different career paths to expand their horizons and figure out their preferences at work. Not everyone readily steps out of their comfort zone, so make sure to challenge them without pressuring them.
15. Analyze Progress
When it comes to guiding career development, it’s helpful to analyze how far your mentee has progressed. Ideally, you and your mentee will have set specific, measurable objectives to help them level up their career. Once those have been completed, analyze how well you and your mentee met their objectives. If their objectives were completed successfully, you can keep moving forward. If they weren’t, it’s important to dig into why that happened and evaluate how to do better in the future.
16. Seek Out Feedback
Charles McMillan, founder of Stand With Main Street, said, “Mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship with the mentor and mentee.” Ask your mentee for feedback often and be open to acting on it. This lets your mentee take an active role in shaping your relationship and your communication, and it also gives them the opportunity to practice giving feedback in a professional manner.
17. Learn How To Build on Their Skills
One area that all mentors should help their mentees with is their professional skills. Learn about their strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to help them upskill and reach their highest potential. If you have expertise in the skills they want to learn, make sure to teach them what you know. On the flip side, if you don’t have experience with their desired skills, do your best to put them in touch with someone who does or direct them to resources like Udemy or Khan Academy to get started.
18. Practice Patience
As a mentor, you already know that career success doesn’t happen overnight. Professional growth and learning takes time, so remember to practice patience with your mentee. They may not always acquire a new skill quickly or meet their goals right away. Exercise patience and help them stay dedicated throughout the process. After all, growth is as much about the journey as it is the end result.
19. Celebrate Wins
No matter what type of mentor you are, it’s important to celebrate your mentee’s successes in a way that is meaningful to them. Reach out in a tangible way like writing a card, sending flowers, or taking them to a celebration dinner if they appreciate those gestures. If they prefer words of affirmation, take the time to acknowledge a special accomplishment or congratulate them for exemplary performance. Tailor the celebration to them so they feel good about their progress and feel motivated to keep going.
20. Be Mindful of Mental Health
Work-life balance can be an ongoing struggle for professionals, whether you’ve been in the workforce for decades or have just a few years on your resume. Make acknowledging mental health a priority in your mentorship. Share what helps you bring balance to your life and encourage your mentee to regularly engage in activities that matter to them outside of work.
21. Level Up Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor and identify others’ feelings as well as your own, and use this information to guide your thoughts and actions. This ability is linked to success for individuals in all areas of life and work, so it’s important to continuously improve it. Try leveling up in the following areas of emotional intelligence:
- Relationship Management: Work on conflict management, teamwork, and collaboration
- Self-Management: Work on emotional self-control, adaptability, and initiative
- Self-Awareness: Work on service orientation, empathy, and organizational awareness
- Social Awareness: Work on confidence, social awareness, and accurate self-assessment
22. Focus on the Whole Picture
Many professionals seek out mentorship when they need specific improvement in a certain area. For example, if someone is unfamiliar with starting a business, they may use a business mentor to help them write a financial plan.
However, good mentors will focus on the entire picture when it comes to development. Instead of working to only improve your mentee’s weaknesses, make it a priority to also hone their strengths. With your help, their strongest skills may reach a level they wouldn’t have reached on their own.
23. Acknowledge Your Own Mistakes
Sometimes mentors get put on a pedestal and seem like they know everything or can accomplish anything. Break down this facade and acknowledge when you make mistakes. This allows your mentee to learn valuable lessons, and it’s also a demonstration of humility and resilience. As humans, mistakes are bound to happen, but it’s important to highlight for your mentee that how we change and move on from them is what truly matters.
24. Boost Their Confidence
A mentor should always boost the self-esteem of their mentee and never aim to tear them down. Use praise and encouragement to show them that you are confident in them and their abilities. By demonstrating your trust in them, their confidence will rise and help them reach new heights.
25. Hone Your Leadership Capabilities
The process of mentoring someone will help you hone your leadership skills. You’ll work on offering insight and guidance for someone else’s career and take the responsibility that comes along with it.
Always lead by example because your mentee will learn from it and others may even promote you for it. Wesley Exon, founder and CEO of Best Value Schools, shared, “Being a mentor gave me a way to showcase my leadership and coaching abilities [and] this helped me get promoted into a leadership role.”
26. Practice Active Listening
Traditional mentors typically have more life and work experience than their mentees. This means that you may have a lot of wisdom and advice to share, but interactions shouldn’t be one way. Promote a two-way dialogue and practice active listening with your mentee. Give them the opportunity to speak their mind and listen to understand, not just respond. The enhanced quality of your communication will benefit your relationship as a whole.
27. Be a Champion for Their Career Growth
Even if your mentoring type isn’t the Advocate, you should still champion your mentee’s growth throughout their journey. For example, when they need a reference or letter of recommendation, be the one to write them a glowing review that highlights their strengths and abilities. Even when opportunities aren’t present, the best mentors will seek to create those opportunities by making connections and pushing their mentee to keep learning.
Good mentorships are incredibly fulfilling for all people involved, so try investing your time and energy in a mentee. Whether you help them climb the corporate ladder or grow their net worth, you’ll gain an incredible return on investment personally, professionally, and financially.
Sources: Biz New Orleans