Best Practices for Mentors
Give direct, honest feedback. Most mentees are going to desire clear and frequent feedback. The best mentors are transparent, authentic, and engage in direct communication. Mentees will be looking for either positive feedback or practical advice that they can apply immediately. Ask your mentee what kind of feedback he or she wants; give them the opportunity to share their preferred communication style and gauge how willing they are to hear direct, potentially critical, feedback.
The relationship should be mutually beneficial. Do not forget that this relationship can be just as beneficial to you as it is to your mentee. Be thoughtful about your goals for the relationship and spend some time thinking about what your mentee can teach you – about the industry you both are in, about their generation, about new trends in technology, etc. Do not be shy about asking your mentee to answer your questions!
As an alumni mentor, you play several roles, including:
Advisor: Sharing your story with your mentee and reflecting on what you could have done differently or what advice you wish you would have been given are important parts of the mentorship process. Sharing your knowledge or tips and tricks of the trade you have learned along the way will be extremely helpful to your mentee.
Guide: Listen to your mentee. Ask a lot of questions. Let them share with you their strengths, ambitions, goals, and dreams. Help guide them to set realistic expectations or encourage them to dream bigger! The best mentors do not necessarily tell their mentees what to do or give them explicit advice on how to handle an issue; they listen carefully and help guide their mentees to find the answer on their own.
Motivator: It is important to provide encouragement to your mentee. Inspire your mentee to try new things, encourage your mentee to have open and honest dialogue with you, and express your belief and confidence in your mentee’s abilities. Offering positive feedback and praise can go a long way in boosting you mentee’s confidence.
Resource: Sharing resources like articles, websites, and podcasts can be really useful to your mentee. Ultimately the best resource you can give your mentee is human capital; introduce your mentee to your professional contacts and teach them how to properly build and nurture their network.