If you’ve excelled in some way in your career, you’ve had help from other professionals. You could have been linked by a college contact with your first internship or by a seasoned colleague who you met at a networking conference helped you land your dream job. Most people in the business world start at the bottom and work their way up, but they don’t always do it on their own.
What does it mean to be a mentor?
At its core, being a mentor is being a trusted consultant, advisor, or confidant. It can mean a lot of different things, but it just comes down to making yourself available to help and advise others when they need it, offering that help in a way that makes sense to them, and always having that person’s best interests in mind.
Mentorship can last for years, or it can last one coffee date. When you mentor someone long-term, you really become acquainted with your mentee in such a way that you understand their personality, learning style, and goals. This long-term mentor-mentee relationship can set you up to offer richer, more relevant advice over time.
But mentoring doesn’t have to be long-term. It may also be a one-off or short-term relationship, such as when someone needs support working through a particular issue such as a job change or an issue with a coworker or boss.
What qualifications do you need to be a mentor?
To be a mentor, it is essential to have expertise in the field in which you are mentoring others. If you have not witnessed, learned from practice, and applied the same concepts yourself, then you may not be able to teach well.
It is also important to have the people skills and the ability to teach at an individual level. You need to be able to read a person to know if your teaching method is working. You need to be a coach sometimes. Most of the time, you have to be a listener and also be a source of wisdom about how to prevent errors, give tips on how to empower oneself when everything seems to be going wrong, or help them boost productivity. To know which solution is best, you need to be able to address the situation with your mentee, and choose the best way forward to improve the skills and careers of the mentee.
Each mentorship is unique so you must approach every mentee differently. When you first start out, it’s important to take the time to assess your own style and readiness, and think about what kind of commitment you can and want to make.
Communicate and listen. This way, both you and mentee can set expectations together – especially if you’re just getting to know each other. Understanding exactly where your mentee is coming from is going to help drive your discussion in the direction that’s helpful for both of you.
An effective mentor is someone who is also emotionally intelligent. Whenever you become a mentor to someone, you will find yourself learning about their particular personality, their desires and needs, the interactions that influenced them, and how they cope with various circumstances. The best mentors know how to unlock this knowledge by asking the right questions, reading the body language of their mentees, being open-minded, and even understanding and managing their own emotions.
Lastly, a good mentor let his or her mentee make the decisions. Your job as the mentor is to help a mentee learn their role, not to do it for them. You give constructive criticism and guidance, but at the end of the day, your mentees have the last call. Believe in your mentees, and make that clear to them by allowing them control, so they will have much more faith in both you and themselves.
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