Ready to Pass Along Your Expertise? Here's How to Become a Mentor
When you picture a mentor, what comes to mind? If you envision someone who has fully developed in their career, is in the mid- to late-career stage, and is at the peak of their income level, you're not alone. But in reality, you don't have to be at the height of your career to become a mentor — and in fact, there's no magical time when you'll feel *fully* ready to dispense all your knowledge... because there's always something new to learn!
Sure, you should be experienced, invested in your role, and knowledgeable of the ins and outs of your industry, but there's no need to let imposter syndrome deplete your creative confidence and prevent you from sharing what you've learned with younger professionals. If you're eager to teach a beginner in your field everything you know and help guide them through the ups and downs of their career progression, here's a step-by-step on how to do it — and what pitfalls to avoid.
Finding a mentee organically is arguably the ideal situation (though there are other options... keep reading!). A naturally occurring relationship between an early-career employee and a more seasoned expert can lead to questions and advice being sought, which can in turn form a mentor-mentee relationship over time. Therefore, networking within your workplace and other professional groups is important.
If you feel ready to take on the role of mentor, begin by making yourself available to people within your organization. Let people know you'd be happy to help out if they want to schedule some time to pick your brain about a current work situation. Post valuable advice on LinkedIn so your digital network knows you have great information to share. Make yourself valuable to others by answering their questions, and people will naturally seek you out as new situations arise.
Consider Joining a Group or Organization
You can also network by joining a group or organization outside of your workplace, where professionals from your industry are likely to collaborate. Certain orgs, such as the aptly named Mentoring.org, aim to foster mentorship and collaboration, and can be great resources for finding a mentee.
You might also consider "matchmaking" apps like Bumble Bizz, which lets you apply the dating app-mentality to finding professionals in your industry with whom to network. Even joining non mentorship-specific, but still professional, programs like Selfmade (an educational organization that focuses on teaching budding female entrepreneurs the ins and outs of striking out on their own) can help you meet the right people to connect with.
Find the Right Fit
Just because you put yourself out there and make yourself open to mentoring someone doesn't mean you're going to easily find the right person. The mentor-mentee relationship is one to carefully consider, because if you end up linking up with someone who doesn't share your career values and goals, no one is going to learn anything valuable from your interactions. When considering whether or not to mentor someone, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this person have career goals in mind that I am personally qualified to advise on?
- Do this person and I share a similar work ethic?
- Is this person committed to their own personal and career growth?
- Do this person and I have professional chemistry?
- Does this person lack some insight that I have to share?
Just because you become someone's mentor doesn't mean you need to be available to them 24/7. Avoid having to have awkward conversations later by establishing boundaries up front. Once you've found someone who is interested in working with you, decide upon a meeting time and frequency. Perhaps you'll get coffee once a month and discuss whatever is on your mentee's mind. Maybe a weekly call is actually more effective for your relationship. Establish boundaries and stick to them — if you don't want your mentee texting you on your personal phone number, don't give it to them. Simply direct them to your work phone number and email address. The boundaries themselves are up to you (and your mentee), but make them clear right away.
As you and your new mentee are setting boundaries and determining the specifics of your professional relationship, it's important to ask a lot of questions. Once you know the answers, you can tailor your advice and meeting logistics to getting their goals accomplished. Here are some of the questions you should ask:
- What do you hope to get out of this relationship?
- What are your specific professional goals?
- If you could do anything with your career, what would it be?
- How can I best help you achieve your goals?
- What are some roadblocks you're currently experiencing in your career?
- What kind of lifestyle do you want your career to support?
Create a Roadmap
Once you know the answers to those questions, help your mentee create a roadmap for a specific time frame. Whether you envision your relationship lasting one year or five, determine what kind of growth they want to accomplish within that time frame. That way, you can tailor your meetings and advice to support your mentee's roadmap.
For example, maybe they'd like to get a new job in the next six months. Determine together that the first step is for your mentee to update their resume, and aim to meet again in four weeks to review the updates they've made. Specific action items and time frames like these will help you both get the most out of your time together.
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