As a senior professional, mentoring is one of the most rewarding and impactful activities you can engage in - both for yourself and the junior people you work with.
Research has found that productive relationships result in greater job satisfaction and success for both mentors and mentees. However, you can only obtain those positive results if you invest your time with your mentee on activities and conversation topics that are curated to drive their success.
Keep reading to learn how to develop a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship.
Set the Foundation for a Strong Mentoring Relationship
When you first enter into a mentoring relationship, your discussion topics and activities should focus on helping you and your mentee get to know each other on a deeper level.
If you’re mentoring someone you’ve known for a while, this phase may only take a couple of focused conversations to clarify preferences and goals that you hadn’t yet touched on.
But, if you’re paired with a junior employee at your company or offered to mentor someone through an outside organization, you may need to spend your first few sessions solely on getting to know them.
Learning about your mentee is essential for two reasons:
- It enables you to give advice that is tailored toward their goals, experiences, and abilities.
- Showing a keen interest in them and sharing information about yourself helps establish trust - something’s that’s key for a successful mentoring relationship.
Use These Mentoring Topics to Get to Know Your Mentee
Here are some conversations you should have early in your mentoring relationship:
- Ask them to walk you through their personal, professional, and educational background. As they talk, ask follow-up questions about why they chose specific paths so you can get a deeper understanding of what drives them. Then, flip the conversation to yourself and encourage them to ask clarifying questions.
- Discuss their short and long-term goals. Understanding these are critical for you to be able to guide them in the right direction.
- Find out what your mentee thinks their most significant obstacles to success are. Knowing this will help you gauge where they need the most support and if they’re even focusing on the right issues.
- Describe both of your communication styles. This conversation will help both of you prevent miscommunications and/or offending the other person especially if you have very different personalities.
- Set expectations regarding meeting cadences and lengths. Committing to a schedule prevents your mentee from slipping through the cracks and from taking up too much of your time.
As you discuss these mentoring topics, look for any similarities that can help you foster a deeper connection.
How (And Why) You Should Help Your Mentee Aggressively Pursue Their Goals
After you and your mentee understand your communication preferences, aspirations, and expectations, create a plan that ensures they accomplish their goals. To do that, work with them to break down their short-term and long-term goals into milestones that correspond with your meeting cadence. So, if you meet biweekly, create mini-projects that they can accomplish within two weeks. This way, every time you talk they will have made progress.
Keep in mind that the more successful your mentee becomes, the more valuable the experience is for you - both from a meaningful sense because you get to watch them grow and from an objective sense because they’ll become advantageous business connections.
Mentees are incredibly loyal to great mentors and, once they start rising in their careers, they’ll happily you with things like:
- Introducing you to valuable connections they’ve made.
- Teaching you new skills and insights they’ve learned.
- Sending you referrals.
- Fulfilling reasonable requests that you ask for.
If you help them be successful, your time investment will pay off.
These Conversations and Activities will Ensure Your Mentee’s Success
Here are some ways you can help your mentee reach their goals:
- Ask your mentee to share a challenge their facing and brainstorm ways to solve it. Tell them to come up with all of the ideas and give them feedback on which ones are most likely to work and why. Doing this makes the conversation a learning exercise.
- Invite them to shadow you. Often the best advice you can give is letting them observe how you do things. Following the shadow, sync on the lessons they learned.
- Introduce them to other people who can help them be successful. Not only will this give them access to new perspectives and types of expertise, but it also lets them hone their networking skills.
- If they work for your company, leverage them to help you with projects. Doing this gives them hands-on experience and boosts your productivity. Over time, you can delegate increasingly nuanced tasks.
- Monitor their goal progress help them pivot accordingly. At the beginning of every meeting, ask your mentee if they’re on track to reach their goal. Whenever the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” focus that session on addressing why they’re behind and, if needed, change their future milestones.
- Help them expand their knowledge and skillset. A challenge that many junior employees face is not knowing what skills and knowledge they need learn to move up to the next level. As a senior professional, you can help them prioritize what classes, books, podcasts, etc. they should learn from.
Remember: your focus should be doing whatever it takes to help your mentee achieve their goals. To do this, you may have to do a variety of other activities to equip them to be successful.
Transform Your Relationship into a Collaborative Partnership
If you’re mentoring through a program at work or with another organization, there’s have a completion date. However, that doesn’t mean your relationship has to end.
If you formed a great connection with your mentee and they're becoming more successful, you’ll both benefit from shifting your mentorship into a collaborative business partnership.
Here are some ways you can continue to support one another:
- Be mutual accountability partners. Research shows you are 30% more likely to achieve your goals if you share them with other people.
- Help each other overcome challenges. As your mentee develops their careers, they are going to become increasingly capable of helping you generate solutions to the issues you face.
- Be advocates for one another. Whether it’s sending one another referrals, helping each other get promotions or supporting each other’s careers in different capacities,
- Support one another’s personal goals. As your friendship develops, begin helping each other outside of work. Whether your goal is to run a marathon or become involved in a social cause, there’s always something they can do to ensure your success and vice versa.
Bottom line: Mentoring is one of the most rewarding (in all aspects) things you can do. Strategically focusing your activities and conversation topics helps you get maximum results.
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About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.