Becoming a corporate mentor is a big deal. To take on the role of mentor means jumping into a relationship that will require trust, communication, time and attention. Choosing to act as a corporate mentor is a serious decision.
We’ve discussed the ways in which corporate mentorships can benefit a business, but it’s important to recognize that mentorship is not to be taken lightly.
Acting as a mentor can be incredibly fulfilling. If you’ve worked in an industry for a long time, seen continued success and enjoyed the work you’ve done, mentoring provides the perfect opportunity to share your knowledge, while supporting a young professional, who will potentially carry on your legacy.
Mentoring, however, requires specific skills and abilities. Here are a few of the qualities needed to make a great corporate mentor.
Being Prepared and Committed
Two of the most important qualities a mentor can have are preparedness and commitment. Mentoring is not to be taken lightly. As a mentor, you are taking responsibility to help guide and support another employee on their career path.
Anyone who decides to become a mentor must be prepared—this includes ensuring they have the time to dedicate to the perspective mentee, understanding mentorship is an ongoing and in some ways, symbiotic relationship. A mentee will only get out of the mentorship what the mentor puts into it, and vice versa.
Creating a beneficial mentorship requires organization, mentors should consider:
- Running an initial needs assessment—this should happen in your very first meeting with your mentee.
- Developing a schedule you can both adhere to for you mentoring sessions.
- Preparing for each session—evaluate past sessions, and work with your mentee to determine next steps.
Knowledge, Know-How and a Willingness to Share It
It’s pretty fair to assume that if you’re taking on the role of a corporate mentor you’re considered knowledgeable and skilled at what you do. To be an effective mentor, you should also know how to explain your work and be willing to share your knowledge.
Teaching isn’t as simple as telling someone what to do. You must understand where the mentee is in their career path, where their skill level sits, and how they learn and consume information. Once you understand all of this, sharing what you know and guiding them in their career growth will be easy.
This is a big one. If a mentee is afraid to approach their mentor, it doesn’t bode well for a successful mentoring relationship. A mentor must be approachable—this means working to ensure their mentee feels comfortable coming to them to ask questions and advice.
Approachability has a lot to do with how we communicate—with words but also with our bodies. For some people, it’s not enough to be told they can talk to you, they need to see it in your actions and behaviours. To demonstrate their approachability, a mentor should:
- Be mindful of their body language—open posture, eye contact, and a friendly, yet neutral face are telltale signs of approachability
- Be accessible—mostly, put DOWN your cell phone!
- Show interest
Being approachable can make a huge difference in the relationship a mentor develops with their mentee.
Listens, Assesses and Advises
As a mentor, you should be asking a lot of questions. It won’t suffice to simply wax philosophical on your industry and your achievements. While a good workplace parable can be used to teach an important lesson, what’s truly important in a mentorship, is that the mentor listens.
Active listening isn’t always easy. For someone wanting to nurture younger workers, it can be easy to want to jump right in—offering all the advice you can think of. But, to build a functional and helpful mentorship, the mentor must know their mentee’s goals and needs, so they can help them meet them.
By practicing active listening, a mentor can not only become more attuned to their mentee’s needs, they can better asses and advise on how the mentee can meet their goals.
Open Doors Through Networking
Once the mentorship is underway, and the mentor has a strong understanding of their protégé’s goals—and the mentee has proven they’re responsible, capable and keen—the next step in this relationship is to open doors.
By helping the mentee to make further business connections, the mentor is expanding the mentee’s ability to meet their goals, and continue growing in the profession. Professional connections matter—the right connection can lead to the professional growth a mentee is looking for. Networking also builds confidence. Meeting and interacting with new people strengthens communication skills.
Motivate and Inspire Through Example
If you hate your job, you shouldn’t be looking to act as a mentor.
A worthwhile mentor will be someone who is positive and motivated—a professional who continues to be inspired by their industry and work, regardless of how long they’ve been doing it.
Great mentors lead by example, they set and meet ongoing goals, are respected by their colleagues and senior management, they exhibit enthusiasm for their work and are consistently gaining new knowledge.
Finding the Right Mentor
As more companies look to create mentorship programs, they’ll need to assess their current talent pool to determine who possesses the qualities necessary to be a great mentor. Evaluating job performance and goal setting can help an organization identify employees to consider as potential mentors.
While job performance, skill and knowledge are important to evaluate in a potential mentor, enthusiasm and a desire to mentor are also necessary, if your organization is to provide an outstanding mentorship program.