At some point in many people’s careers, they may find themselves part of a mentor-mentee relationship. I’ve had the good fortune to be on both sides in my career as a marketer, and now as an entrepreneur and founder of the advertising agency, Fingerpaint. Whether the arrangement is formally set up through your company or it’s more casual, there are a few guidelines mentors should keep in mind to make the partnership as beneficial as possible for both parties.
First and foremost, if you are embarking on the journey of being a mentor, make sure you can fully commit to it. It’s easy to see this as an extracurricular piled on top of your day job, but the person whom you’ve agreed to mentor is likely eager and appreciative of your guidance. If you’re going to be their mentor, you should make sure they’re also a priority. Having empathy for your mentee will help you remember what it’s like to be in their shoes—whether they’re more junior to you or are just looking to learn more about a role or industry—and improve the advice you give them.
You should start your mentor-mentee relationship by establishing some ground rules and expectations to set your partnership up for success. Talk to your mentee about what they’re looking to gain from their time with you. Also, determine a communication cadence that fits into both of your schedules to hold you accountable. By first laying the groundwork, you can make the most of your time together.
As the mentor, it can be tempting to assert your role and nudge your mentee toward your own ideals. But make sure that when you meet, you listen as much as you talk. There is a certain degree to which this person must strike out on their own and be able to make their own decisions and, sometimes, their own mistakes. You can certainly help them assess the situation to learn what worked or didn’t work, but they should learn through doing as well as through listening.
And finally, remember that you can learn something, too. Some of the most fruitful mentor-mentee relationships occur when each party shares their perspective, regardless of who is the mentor. No matter who your mentee is, they may have different experiences, perspectives, and skills. A successful mentorship is both give and take, and mentors should keep this in mind to maximize the success of the relationship.
Mentoring can expand networks, provide valuable insight, and even open doors for both people. By listening to your mentee and understanding their needs, you can tailor your advice accordingly. In the end, you’ll form a valuable business relationship that will benefit both of you for years to come.