So you want to be a mentor?

Mentoring is a great way to learn new things, provide support and develop people.  It is also one of the most effective ways to redress inequality in the workplace.   There are benefits for all involved, including organisations, but it does require some preparation. Knowing what it takes to be a good mentor is essential to the success of any mentoring relationship. Read on for things to look out for….

In the way that we urge potential mentees to do some ‘pre-work’, we ask mentors to make sure they do some too. Broadly speaking, mentors and mentees should do the same thing: look at why they feel they need or want a mentor/be a mentor and who would be the right person to work with.  We always advise mentoring training for anyone who is serious about becoming a mentor.  In the absence of that however, here are a few things to think about if you’re thinking of setting up a mentoring programme or becoming one yourself.

1. Think about motivation

Many people become mentors because they want to help – which is the point after all.  However, it’s important to make sure that it’s the right help.  Mentoring isn’t about ‘fixing’ people or ‘managing’ their careers for them.  Mentors are there to guide, offer suggestions and encourage mentees to make their own decisions.

Similarly, some people are looking for a distraction and a way of avoiding their own problems. These people will be les effective and unfocused.

Finally, mentoring is supposed to be a mutually beneficial experience.  If potential mentors go into it without acknowledging this, it will not work.  Mentoring isn’t designed to further the mentors career or to improve their profile.  It is primarily about the mentee,.  Altruism on the part of the mentor is essential.

2. Think about experience, skills, track record and personal qualities

Are you someone who has the right level of experience and knowledge?  This will dictate who you can effectively mentor, so it’s vital to identify this before you enter into a mentoring relationship.

Do you enjoy learning?  Mentoring, when done effectively, is a mutually beneficial learning opportunity for mentee AND mentor.

Is listening one of your key skills?  Whilst mentees come to mentors in order to learn, they don’t need a lecture during their sessions.  Listening and responding to the needs of the mentee are vital.

Is mentoring something you can really commit to?  Effective mentoring relationships should last for a minimum of 6 months and beyond.  You and your mentee will agree how often you meet but can you devote your time for this long?

As with most things, the effort you put in dictates the outcome and mentoring is no exception. Mentors who understand their motivations as well as the skills, strengths, experience and qualities they bring to the relationship will be the most effective and get the most out of it. Start preparing today!