Helping a colleague achieve their career goals could actually help you in your career too. So have you got what it takes to be a mentor?
You don’t need formal training to be a mentor. You are sharing the benefits of your experience with another and helping them with their career progression. And you’ll gain from the experience too.
What’s in it for me?
Sylvia Baldock is an expert in coaching, mentoring and maximising the potential of individuals and teams in the workplace. At the AAT Annual Conference in June 2019 she gave a keynote presentation on The Art of Effective Mentoring.
“In a study of 1,000 employees, 25% of those who took part in mentoring programs saw an increase in their salary” – Sylvia Baldock
There are advantages for mentors – and their employers – too. The same study found that retention rates were higher for both mentees and mentors than those not participating in a mentoring program.
Baldock says: ‘Being a mentor will help you in many ways. It will boost your confidence: helping another with their career will remind you of the skills you have and just how much you have learned. These days we are all so forward focused it’s easy to forget what you have achieved. By mentoring someone it will remind you of how far you have come. So mentoring will help build your confidence and self-esteem and your career will benefit as a result’.
Being a mentor will help your learning too, adds Baldock. ‘If you are mentoring someone younger they are likely to have a different perspective on the business. Their approach will help stimulate your thinking in a different way. This can spark up fresh ideas and their enthusiasm can motivate and re-energise you’.
- Large organisations sometimes have mentoring programs, but if yours doesn’t, you can make the case for mentoring to your line manager.
- Being a mentor will help your career – and that of your mentee. You can learn from them as they do from you.
Can I do it?
You don’t need to be at the peak of your profession or in a senior post to be a mentor. What you do need is the desire to help others by sharing your knowledge and experience. Nor do you need to be a massive extrovert – although someone particularly introverted may not find being a mentor comes easily.
‘Mentoring is ideal if you are the type of person who likes helping others to progress and to tap into more of their true potential’ advises Baldock. The main qualification is that you have to be a good listener. Your undivided attention will encourage the mentee to open up and talk in more depth’.
You also need to make sure you’re not trying to mould someone in your image. Your mentee needs the benefit of your experience and wisdom but they don’t need to be told what you did to get where you are and how they should do the same. With mentoring, it’s important to remember that it is all about the mentored person: they are central, not the mentor.
- If you’re a good listener, you can be a mentor. You don’t need to be in a very senior position either.
- You need to guide rather than direct a mentee. The mentee decides what they want out of mentoring; your role is to help them reach that goal. It’s not about saying ‘I did this to get where I am today so you need to do the same’. Instead, it’s about asking ‘What do you want to achieve and how can I assist you with that journey?’
With mentoring, it is up to the mentee to share their aspirations and goals. Says Baldock: ‘At your initial meeting you need to find out what the mentee needs your help with and what you can do to assist them. So, for example, you might start by asking where the mentee sees themselves in six months or two years and what you as their mentor can do to help them get there’.
You could then follow that up by asking the mentee what they’ve already tried and what happened – for example, did they attend a networking event? Did they make any useful contacts there? If they didn’t, then what does the mentee think they could do differently in the future?
After each session, you should follow up with a summary of what you discussed and what actions the mentee is going to take. So, for example, you both may decide that the mentee should look into what kind of training courses they could take.
Finally: you as a mentor need to commit fully to every meeting. A good mentor isn’t one who is checking their phone throughout the meeting. If you can’t dedicate an hour of uninterrupted time once a month, then maybe mentoring isn’t for you.
- Treat mentoring seriously. Be dedicated. Set goals with your mentee and stick to them.
Mentoring has benefits for the mentor, mentee and the organisation. For the mentor, imparting experience and wisdom to someone else and watching them grow will help remind them of what they’ve achieved and what they enjoy about their career.
For the organisation, a mentoring programme can help make staff feel valued and assists with retention. And for the mentee, what can be better than having someone to listen to them and assist them on the career path?
Indeed, it’s a good idea to have a mentor if you are a mentor – so you’ll be both mentor and mentee – because after all, wherever we are in our careers we could all do with tapping into the wisdom of others.
For more on mentoring and people skills:
Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.