For emerging professionals, the modern corporate landscape is a challenging and unknown territory, muddled with obstacles and setbacks. Having a coach to guide you through this maze of challenges can be extremely valuable, especially in the outset of your career. Nevertheless, mentorship must not be interpreted as an experience that solely benefits the mentee as it can also be an empowering experience for mentors. As Sheryl Sandberg notes in her memoir Lean In, “Sociologists and psychologists have long observed our deep desire to participate in reciprocal behaviour… The mentor/mentee relationship is no exception. When done right, everybody flourishes.” Here’s how to establish a mentor/mentee bond based on a dynamic of mutual growth and success:
The Right Fit: Before committing to the partnership, mentor and mentee should discuss common goals and visions as both parties must be able to make an informed decision as to whether a compatible and worthwhile relationship can be formed. Expectations of what is to be achieved via mentorship and levels of commitment to the relationship must be aligned. The mentee should sense that their prospective mentor is active and respected in the industry, enthusiastic about their career choice and passionate about developing the next generation of industry leaders. Similarly, the mentor must interpret the mentee’s level of commitment, as the mentor’s goal to develop leadership and people management skills through mentoring will not be possible if paired with a disengaged mentee.
Honour Your Commitment to the Process: Once a compatible mentor/mentee pairing is established, the relationship must be nourished by the prioritization of regular and purposeful contact. Schedule a weekly call to maintain accountability or send an occasional email to your mentor updating them on your progress. When formal meetings are scheduled, draft an agenda to ensure the conversation is structured and meaningful. If both participants feel that their time and efforts are valued and appreciated, the partnership will be reinforced.
Frequent Feedback: Open dialogue between mentor and mentee is an essential component to sustaining a successful mentoring relationship. Mentees should not assume that it is the responsibility of the mentor to provide frequent feedback. A mentoring partnership is a two-way street – help your mentor help you. Throughout the duration of the mentorship, identify and clearly communicate your needs and expectations of the relationship.
Mentee Empowerment: Mentors must empower their mentees to create solutions independently, rather than provide handouts. An effective mentor does not simply provide the answer, but guides the mentee to discover their own solutions. The mentor and mentee are a team, both vying for a shared goal – the mentee becoming empowered to solve, create and develop independently by generating new skills, insights and confidence.
Express Gratitude: Both mentor and mentee must respect each other’s time. Because they have committed to devote their time and energy, mentors desire reassurance that they are providing value. Mentees should follow up with their mentor to reiterate the key advice provided and communicate their plan for implementation. When mentors recognize that their efforts are valued, they will continue to be committed to investing in the relationship.
Onto the Next One: Be aware of the appropriate time to move on from the partnership as the mentee’s career progresses. If the mentorship is executed with intention and commitment, the mentee’s skills and experiences will eventually be on par with that of their mentor. However, never sever ties completely. You have invested the time into the formation of a relationship and will continue to have a vested interest in the progression of each other’s careers
Get Involved – Mentorship Programs: Are you interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, but unsure where to start? Many associations provide resources and mentorship programs to facilitate the process. Here are a few to consider:
- Canadian Society of Association Executives
- Young Women in Business
- WINiT Mentor Program
- Sponsorship Marketing Council Canada’s Activate! Mentorship Program
- Professional Standards Board
- International Game Developers Association – Mentor Cafe
- Women in Mining/Women in Nuclear