Mentoring relationships can be rewarding. However, if you’re the kind of mentor who assumes that you need to have answers and solutions to any question, issue or need your mentee might have, a mentorship can also be intimidating. What if you were to approach your mentoring relationship as a dynamic connection and opportunity for both mentee and mentor learn and grow? What if you considered the experience as a networking opportunity for both of you?
There are many resources, stories, tips and information focused on enhancing networking skills of mentees. Less common are those that include tips for mentors.
At a Five Good Ideas session, Lisa Mattam shared her ideas about Successful Networking. Her excellent and practical advice is certainly useful to a very broad audience. There are however, specific tips of particular benefit to mentors. Here are five.
- Look both ways: mentoring is not a one way street.
While the goal of your relationship might be to enhance the career options for your mentee, remember that they too are connected to networks that may be beneficial for you. Keep focused on the mentoring goal but take the opportunity to express your interests and needs. People appreciate helping as much as they do being helped.
- Consider unlikely connections.
If your mentee is researching a particular field, think beyond your direct connections to individuals in that field. For example, parents of your childrens’ friends may be great network hubs. Your squash club may also be an opportunity to explore potential new connections on behalf of your mentee. Asking on behalf of someone else is often easier than asking for ourselves and generally, people are delighted to help.
- Learn from other mentors.
If you have been paired with a mentee by an organization or mentoring program such as The Mentoring Partnership, consider asking to be linked with another mentor if you have specific questions or situations you are struggling with, or would simply like to connect around the experience of being a mentor.
- Remember your etiquette.
Any network is only as strong as its weakest link. If you are connecting your mentee to someone, it is important to ask for that individual’s permission before sharing contact information. Once you have their permission, an e-mail to both parties with a call to action (usually to the mentee) is an appropriate way to proceed. A follow up e-mail thanking the individual to whom you have made the request is also not a bad idea.
- Establish your own mentors.
The mentoring relationship often requires a combination of counseling, supporting and using influence to help others. You may have strong skills in these areas, but you may also need guidance. Establish your own network of informal mentors which may help you develop these competencies.