Mentorship 101

Ever considered getting a mentor? A mentor is someone who helps you grow your skills, make decisions, and gain new perspectives on your life and/or career. The idea of mentorship is pairing a person with lots of experience in a particular area with someone who has less experience or knowledge in that same area.

The benefits of mentoring for mentees is fairly obvious, they get access to experience and knowledge that they don’t currently have. Having someone to guide you through a career or particular focus can be very helpful. Less painful mistakes are made and mentees can avoid the pitfalls and frustrations that occur with inexperience. Learning and development is accelerated, because you have a more experienced set of eyes helping you problem solve. Another benefit of mentoring is learning about the work culture and knowing what to expect ahead of time. Learning about workplace culture can lead to adapting to the office culture more easily and being included in work related activities and outings faster than other newcomers. This sort of advantage can lead to better promotions. In fact, research has shown that employees who are mentored have a better career track than those who aren’t, in fact, they are 5 times more likely to be promoted.

There are also plenty of benefits that mentors enjoy, as well. Many people like the feeling of giving back, a study has shown as many as 87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships. Many mentors feel a responsibility to help others, since they likely received a lot of help along their own journey as well. Mentors also sharpen their leadership skills and can be recognized as an advisor in the community. They can also learn a lot from helping their mentees. Sometimes the best way to learn a subject is to teach it. Mentors may also pick up new perspectives and ways of seeing things from the people they mentor. It really can go both ways, as mentors are 6 times more likely to be promoted.

So, you’ve decided you want a mentor or maybe you’re interested in mentoring someone. What is some etiquette to consider? Mentorship is built on trust, so let’s start there. As a mentor, it’s important that you keep to agreed mentoring appointments, avoid being overly critical, and respect confidentiality (i.e avoid discussing a mentee’s failings with others). Another important thing to remember is to avoid talking when you should be listening and to take care not to inhibit your mentee’s ability to think for themselves. You are simply a guide, it is not your responsibility to spoon feed or be overbearing. Behave at all times the way you wish your mentee would behave, afterall, you are there to set the example! As a mentee, it might be easy to think your mentor will be more involved than they are able or want to. This can lead to frustration on both sides. Mentees must take care to own their own development, you are there to gain insight and ask for guidance. Ultimately, it is the mentee’s responsibility to stay focused and achieve their goals. A mentee should not expect a mentor to drive the relationship and take charge of the mentee’s development. A mentor shouldn’t be expected to make personal introductions for the mentee’s benefit, unless they are comfortable doing so. Respect your mentor’s time and don’t try to take more time and effort than the mentor is comfortable giving. With the right expectations in place, a mentorship can be a very fulfilling relationship for both parties.

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