As we go through our daily lives — especially as the work-life juggling act becomes more challenging — it is important to have a confidant to talk to, someone with whom we can discuss the difficult choices we regularly face. Mentors fit that bill. They are trusted sounding boards. I have counted on those sounding boards throughout my career and have been that sounding board twice as a WISE Within mentor.
In my experience, being a good mentor is more than making a time commitment to your mentee; it is a promise to make the time you have committed the most valuable it can be.
To do that, a mentor has to be willing to leave the office behind — mentally, more than anything — and dedicate full attention to the mentee. If my mentee and I arrange a lunch meeting, I make it a point to put the BlackBerry down. And, I expect the same in return. We enter into these relationships because we believe mentoring is important to professional and personal growth. Distractions only interfere with what we are trying to accomplish.
As mentors, we are here to help provide our mentees with a bigger picture of what is possible through sharing our expertise and experiences, and listening is key. The mentoring relationship is an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with someone you might not normally interact with. If you are focused on only imparting advice — “You should do this,” “You should do that,” “Here’s some people you should call” — you will miss out on meaningful discourse that will be just as beneficial to you as your mentee.
There is a temptation in programs such as WISE Within to dive right in, mentees eager to find their next experience or learn more about the industry, but I have found that just sitting down and talking has been the greatest start.
As the relationship progressed, I gave my mentee some resources — materials worth reading and people who would be helpful for her to speak with. I felt comfortable sharing my network of contacts and took the extra step of preparing my contacts for my mentee’s call. It became a bit of a working classroom, as we both left our meetings with an “assignment” to follow through with a course of action. And, I expected my mentee to update me on her progress so I could be proactive and proud. This helped expand the relationship beyond the meetings or phone calls every three or four weeks. Other times, there was no homework, as my mentee just wanted to blow off steam on issues she couldn’t discuss in the workplace or topics her family and friends had heard enough about.
I walked away from meetings and conversations with my mentee feeling like I had accomplished something good. I had given back to the industry that is so important to me and contributed to the growth of the next generation of movers and shakers. Now, that’s time well spent.