If you had a mentor when you were coming up in the business world, you probably recognize the value of one because of that experience. If you didn’t have one, you probably recognize their value because you wanted one yourself. Mentoring the next generation of business leaders is an important role, and the tips below can help you be a better one.
Talk to Your Mentee
Your role in the life of your mentee will vary according to how old they are, where they are in their career and the formality of the arrangement. Being a mentor to a teenaged child of a close family friend will be different from being in the same role to a new hire at the office. All the same, there is one thing that you should do in every situation, and that’s talk to your mentee—and let them do a lot of the talking as well. Ask them questions. Find out what they want out of this relationship and out of this career. Encourage them to ask you questions as well.
Setting boundaries can be an important element of your relationship, particularly if you are working with a young person who does not know much about appropriate professional behavior. You can model and explain with the boundaries that you yourself set. In a more informal mentoring situation, those boundaries might be more fluid. For example, if you are in a mentoring relationship with the child of a family friend, you might even go so far as to cosign on private student loans if there is not another adult in their life who can do this. Y
ou can see an eligibility checklist to help you determine whether cosigning would be necessary and what else is needed. In more formal relationships where you do not know the mentee well, a more appropriate approach might be to help them identify other sources of funding or other people who could cosign for them.
Sharing advice is not a bad thing, but your role is not really to tell your mentee what to do all the time even though it can be tempting. Instead, you should be there for them as a sounding board, to answer questions, and to encourage them to keeping working toward their goals even when it is challenging, cheering them on as they do. If there is a situation where you feel like you need to give them advice, try asking questions instead that help lead them to the solutions you have in mind. Listen to what they are saying for themselves as well.
For example, your mentee may be saying that they wish they had more certifications or credentials on their resume but cannot arrive at a solution such as taking project management courses which may be obvious to you. This is part of your job as a mentor, hear what they want and offer a pathway towards achieving that goal that starts with their idea for their own life.
As a business leader, you are well aware of the importance of relationships in your success, and this is one of the most valuable things that you may be able to offer. You should only do this at a level you are comfortable with, and you may want to identify just a few key people for them to meet. Be sure that they understand how to interact appropriately with the people you connect them with.