Five Ways to Become a Great Career Mentor

Photo of a business person mentoring another.

There are plenty of great resources out there that can teach you how to choose the right career mentor, but becoming a mentor yourself isn’t quite as simple. And in many ways, this step is just as important — for your own career advancement as well as the advancement of the person you’re helping.

Taking on a mentee can help you pay back some of the karmic debt you might have incurred by relying on others to teach you, guide you and help you get ahead. But it can also help you clarify and make sense of your own learning process. And the better you understand how you arrived at your current location, the better prepared you’ll be for the next big step. Here are a few quick and simple tips for finding a mentee and launching a mutually beneficial and productive professional relationship.

Becoming a Great Mentor

  1. Make yourself available. Contact your HR office and find out what kinds of mentoring programs are formally or informally supported by your company’s official channels. Don’t expect to be approached. Your company may offer a program you haven’t heard about even after all these years, possibly because you haven’t asked. 
  2. Make it easy for your mentee to reach out to you. A determined student will overcome any obstacle to reach a qualified teacher, even a cold reception or a few unreturned messages. But don’t make this necessary. Be warm, friendly and interested. Make clear eye contact, and when asked for a moment of your time, stop doing other things and give the mentee your full attention. Of course, when you establish an appointment with the mentee, do everything in your power to keep it. 
  3. Respect her time. Just as you expect your mentee to be prepared for your meetings and to arrive with questions in hand, notebook at the ready and assignments (if there are any) completed, try to show her the same respect. Know beforehand what you plan to accomplish during the meeting and the points you intend to discuss. It’s true that great conversations can happen organically and there’s no reason to cling rigidly to a script, but have a script in mind nevertheless. 
  4. Observe her progress carefully. A great mentor relationship moves in two directions, not just one. Don’t get stuck on transmit mode. In addition to sharing wisdom and explaining the finer points of the business to your protégée, you’ll also need to observe her progress and pay attention to the skills and information she’s mastering and/or struggling with. Offer praise when necessary and don’t ignore weak points or areas that require more focus. 
  5. Listen before you speak. You can’t help someone reach a goal or destination if you haven’t first determined exactly what those goals are or where that destination lies. Don’t reflexively try to turn your protégée into a younger version of yourself. Find out where she wants to go — by listening carefully — then do everything you can to help her get there. 

Mentoring Should Be a Positive Experience for Everyone

Before you step into the world of mentoring for the first time, gather the tools and tips you need to make this new partnership a success. Visit LiveCareer to learn a few teaching strategies and communication skills that can help both you and your protégée meet your individual and shared goals.

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