In the summer of 2018, I worked as a Summer Associate at Twomentor. I learned a lot about different kinds of business consulting companies through their mentorship initiatives. But it wasn't the kind of mentorship I was used to experiencing personally. My peers at that time were just coming out of college and working in big corporate companies with little to no guidance. But I was different. I never had the goal or aspiration of working in a big company. Of course, I tried, however I still believe it is not my path. I never considered those that really do want to work for a major Fortune 500 company are forced to climb the career ladder completely alone, especially women.
During my summer at Twomentor, I learned from the mentoring trailblazer herself, Julie Kantor. Julie is an advocate for elevating women, an educator for corporate companies, and she is also one of the most inspiring women I know. With her impressive workshops as well as throughout our own mentor/mentee relationship, Julie has taught me the value mentorship has for someone's career and life. Together, we brainstormed key aspects that made our relationship work as well as the best strategies for bringing out the best in your mentor/mentee relationship.
I never considered those that really do want to work for a major Fortune 500 company are forced to climb the career ladder completely alone, especially women.
Now, I see that I can step into the role of mentor myself.
In discussing the mentor side of this equation, we need to realize that nobody's perfect. Yes, not even the mentors that we look up to can claim perfection. Some of us are unorganized, lack communication, or simply get caught in the chaos of a difficult work schedule and forget we have someone looking up to us as role models. However, there is always room to improve as a mentor while bringing out the best in your mentee. According to Deloitte, Millennials who plan on staying with their current employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). Furthermore, according to a 2014 survey by The UPS Store, 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years — double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses.
In discussing the mentor side of this equation, we need to realize that nobody's perfect. Yes, not even the mentors that we look up to can claim perfection.
Though there is an undeniably strong case in support of mentoring, these relationships can get derailed without the proper care and consideration.
1. Honesty and open communication
It is important in any mentor/mentee relationship to build a solid foundation early for giving and receiving mutual feedback. Being transparent builds trust and allows more space for open communication. Make sure as a mentor, you listen closely to your mentee and get to know them both as a person and a professional. You are in a position to help your mentee build on their strengths while giving constructive feedback in areas where there's room for improvement. I had a concerned mentor ask me often "Are you taking care of yourself," as part of his dedication to self-care in the workforce. His feedback was well received. If you go overboard with critical feedback, the relationship will most likely deteriorate, so make sure there's a give and take. Good communication is crucial for a long-lasting mentor/mentee relationship.
2. Goal setting and task-focus
Part of being a mentor is helping your mentee on the journey toward achieving their own goals. A lot of mentor-mentee relationships fail because there are no clarified objectives as the basis of the working relationship. It is important to go over the mentee's goals on the first or second meeting and recognize milestones monthly or bi-monthly. New goals may emerge or old goals may change, but a mentor will always be there for support and guidance. Julie believes that, "we really recommend that mentors stay away from the words 'you should.' Your role is to help your mentee find their path and share lessons and learning from your experience, knowledge, and skills." A mentor's job is to support their mentees' vision and ongoing success while encouraging them to keep the momentum moving forward.
3. Mutual respect
Your mentor or mentee might disappoint you personally or professionally. This can be very hard on the relationship emotionally. Mentors and mentees must have mutual respect for one another though they might have different values and beliefs. Although a mentor usually has more experience than the mentee, the ability to respect their mentee for their strengths and everything else they have to bring to the table is vital. When a mentor believes in their mentee, it gives them courage and confidence. Likewise, when the mentee has respect for their mentor — their experience, skills, ability to guide — the mentor is more willing to help. The mentor may have an abundance of knowledge to offer their mentee, but each individual will grow together through the relationship. However, if you feel (on either side) that your mentee/mentor is unethical, we suggest you move on and not align yourself with them further. Some matches just aren't meant to be.
4. Carve out time for each other
Along with having mutual respect, a mentor and mentee must allocate enough time for one another. Canceling and rescheduling too many meetings can really weaken the potential bong of the relationship. This goes back to the point of mutual respect and valuing the other person's time. Although we aren't perfect, and sometimes get lost in a sea of scheduling conflicts, the relationship between a mentor and mentee is an important priority. Carving out enough time for each other must be in the upfront plan, even if it is just for a few months of meetings.
5. Ask each other lots of questions
One of the best parts about the mentor and mentee relationship is that there is room for growth for both parties. But, to support this, trust needs to be established early. Getting to know each other is important whether it is about one another's work, family life, favorite hobbies, or their dreams. Finding commonalities can make the relationship stronger and more enjoyable for both of you. You do not want to be strangers with your mentee or mentor, you want to build a rapport that makes you excited to be on this journey together. The more comfortable you both are, the more questions you can ask each other for learning and growth. As a mentor, sharing your life experiences openly is also important for your mentee to hear so they can learn from your successes and mistakes. Your honest insights will make your mentee feel safe in opening up as well.
Lastly, the mentor/mentee relationship is a learning experience. If you follow these five recommendations, it will only serve to strengthen your bond. A bond is formed when two people are able to be their true, authentic selves around one another. So the best advice is BE YOU, flaws and all because that is how both parties will benefit and grow.
(This article has been updated since original publication, 2018)
WRITTEN BYDevi Jags