Want to be a Mentor? Here’s How | Part 2

It’s never too late to grow in your career and one great way to learn new skills is by helping somebody else find their way, since the most effective learning is often collaborative.

Working as a mentor can be a rewarding and dynamic experience for both you and your mentee. You might be surprised by how much you gain from the process! Part 1 of this two-part series focused on where to find a mentee and how to give memorable advice. Now we’ll cover how to let your mentee take center stage.

Honing your listening skills

In a mentoring relationship, you’ll need to listen as much as you talk. Start by focusing your discussions with clear expectations. When you meet with your mentee, you should know what you want to accomplish by devoting your first few meetings to creating a “road map” for the time ahead. To learn their interests and intentions, ask questions that invite thoughtful answers, such as:

  • “What are three goals you’d like to accomplish in our time together?”
  • “Where do you see yourself one/five/ten years down the road?”
  • “What is your ideal job title?”
  • “Which passions would you pursue if money were no object?”
  • “Which areas of your career do you have the greatest uncertainty/most questions about?”

While you may be the one setting the agenda at first, as time goes on, let your mentee determine the direction of your meetings.

Another way to strengthen your relationship is by practicing active listening. Think of active listening as having two components: attention and reflection.

  • Attention: Attention starts with eye contact and actively engaged body language. Let the mentee finish their thought before you speak.
  • Reflection: Reflection involves responding to ideas proposed by others. You can paraphrase what your mentee says to make sure you understand it correctly and ask questions to show genuine interest. For example, you could say:
    • “What I’m hearing from you is …”
    • “I’d love to hear more about ____. Can you elaborate?”
    • “What are your thoughts on _____?”
    • “Just to confirm, you’re saying …”

Pro Tip: Through reflection, you’ll communicate to your mentee that their insight is valuable.

You might want to follow in-person meetings or phone calls with a brief email summary of what you discussed and how you’d like to move forward. This practice is especially helpful if your meetings are infrequent.

Let your mentee shine

The most skilled mentors make their mentees into leaders too, allowing them to become the best possible version of themselves. One great way to show your support is to give your mentee public praise whenever appropriate. Brag about their accomplishments to others in person, or write them a LinkedIn recommendation.

Over time you’ll get to know your mentee as an individual, including their passions and interests. Your work together could also reveal strengths you didn’t initially notice, or perhaps you’ll discover that your mentee is better suited for another position or field. While this probably isn’t the planned result, it can be an important part of the growth and discovery process.

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Have you worked as a mentor? What lessons have you learned along the way?

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Amy Bergen is a writer based in Portland, Maine. She has experience in the social impact space in Baltimore, Maryland, the educational museum sphere in Columbus, Ohio, and the literary world of New York City.
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