Mentorship can often resemble dating - it's not always a perfect match!
Thankfully, we've assembled a few practical tips to help you develop a strong relationship with your mentee and make the most of your sessions together.
1. Come prepared
Prepare yourself in advance by jotting down some notes and any questions you may have to guide structure the conversation. When your mentee booked with you, they'll have included an intro message so you'll have an idea of what they'd like to discuss during your session together.
2. Practice active listening
This is probably the most important muscle to flex as a mentor! It's essential that you remain focused on what your mentee is communicating to you, to ensure you properly understand what is being said and implied.
We often feel the need to jump in and relate a thought or experience and sometimes even negate what we hear, but we may be missing the point. A good tip is to repeat what you think you understood from the exchange. Either you will have understood correctly or your mentee will try to clarify himself or herself.
Active listening essentially requires that you be aware of your communication skills and to be empathetic to the situation. Even your body language is key, so make sure to nod and face your mentee straight on with arms uncrossed. This way, you'll be able to establish a bond of trust with your mentee and let the excellent mentor within you emerge!
3. Take lots of notes
This almost goes without saying: A lot can be said in an hour-long session, so be sure you have a trusty pen and paper on standby. Hold onto these notes should you like to remember what was said during your session with your mentee and track their progress.
4. Keep introductions short and dive right in
Even though you have 30 minutes to an hour to talk, you'll want to make the most of your time together. We suggest you take at most 5 minutes to introduce yourselves then jump right into the meat of the conversation.
A handy way to transition is to ask your mentee how they would like to use their session, what they would like to discuss, and bring up some questions or thoughts you have after reading their introduction message sent prior to your session together.
5. Be flexible, patient, and respectful
Going into your session with your mentee, you'll likely have a bunch of questions you'd like to ask them after reading their first message. That means you're well prepared, which is excellent!
However, this may also set expectations. Remember that your mentee should lead the session and this can take all sorts of twists and turns. A little flexibility and patience on your part will go a long way to making your mentee feel at ease, a win-win for both of you!
6. Express optimism, not cynicism
Your mentee may come to you with very lofty goals and ambitions. While you may want to provide them with a realistic view of their industry, of its opportunities and limitations, be careful not to immediately shut down your mentee's opinions or dreams.
Instead, provide valuable insight that can help broaden their understanding and give them tools that will help them concretely build towards their goals.
7. Value character over competency
Mentoring is more than imparting skill-based knowledge or checking off a list. Sure, it's important for your mentee to be aware of certain skills required for a specific task or project, but as a mentor, you should also privilege character traits that will help your mentee achieve a more well-rounded approach to their work, such as patience, curiosity, exploration, forgiveness and perseverance.
8. Know when to move the conversation along
If general conversation and career guidance aren't flowing naturally, asking about your mentee's specific projects is a great way to go. See if they need any feedback to help move their project forward and go from there.
9. End on a high note
Towards the end of your session, a friendly countdown will appear to indicate the amount of time you have to wrap things up.
If you had a great session, say it! Feedback is really important both for yourself as a mentor and your mentee. Don't be shy to ask how you did or if you could have improved in any way and definitely provide some positive feedback and words of encouragement to your mentee.
If you'd like to follow up with them down the line, let them know!
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