Mentoring is a Two-Way Opportunity

One of the greatest ways to enrich your life is through being a mentor or being mentored by someone. We all have some experience with mentoring, we just may not realize it. Mentoring happens in a variety of ways: coaching, tutoring, teaching, sharing. PRISM Mentoring has created a way to formalize and give some actionable plans to build this relationship. Mentoring is an opportunity that is a two-way street that should lead to an enriching road of discovery for everyone involved.

The Mentor Role

Be committed. Before entering the mentorship, ensure you have the time.

Review the mentoring series details. Set expectations with the mentee. Tell them how much time you can commit (i.e., available for in-person meetings every other week, my schedule is busy I can only meet at this café over my lunch break, or let’s have a virtual meeting once a month, etc.) This time commitment is completely flexible and up to you; it is important to be honest and realistic as part of setting expectations.

Offer guidance and wisdom based on your experience.

Share the positives and negatives. Be open about mistakes you have made to help the mentee learn because everybody makes mistakes. This discussion topic could be enlightening and reassuring that failure is a part of the journey. Hopefully, they will make a different one than you now.

Failure is part of the journey to success, so share the journey you have had.

Mentorships are about growth, helping your mentee learn and grow, so there could be some growing pains.

Be willing to give challenge your mentee. Discuss a problem and then review if they handled a situation in the best way. Instead of telling them what to do, lead them along the path to learning. Instead of giving them a solution, ask, “Have you considered x?”

All good relationships are built on a foundation of trust.

Apply this to your mentor-mentee relationship and keep the content of your conversations confidential.

Meet with your mentee in person when possible, phone or video call are good alternatives.

In-person meetings should always be in a public place (i.e., local coffee shop, library, etc.), never at your home. Or use the tools available today with virtual meetings.

Set a good example for your mentee.

Life happens, you will need to reschedule meetings but try to limit the number of times you reschedule. Communicate via email, text, messenger apps, using the norms for your industry.

To whatever level you feel comfortable and think appropriate, open your network to them, and make introductions.

Introducing your mentee to your professional contacts is not a requirement. It may be helpful for your mentee, but it is up to you to decide.

The Mentee Role

Before entering the mentorship, talk with your prospective mentor.

Make sure that they have indicated that they would mentor you through conversation before a formal invitation through PRISM is sent. Do not send a mentoring request if you haven’t spoken with the person about mentoring.

Be willing to commit more time and effort to the mentorship than your mentor.

Mentors are giving a lot; it is up to you to put in the extra effort. Think of your extra effort and commitment as one way of thanking your mentor.

All good relationships are built on a foundation of trust.

Apply this to your mentee mentor relationship and keep the content of your conversations confidential.

Prioritize meetings with your mentor.

When someone is going out of their way to help you, you should do everything you can to avoid canceling or rescheduling a meeting. And be on time, if not early to all your meetings.

Meet in person when possible, phone or video call are good alternatives.

Remember in-person meetings should always be in a public place (i.e., local coffee shop, library, an office, etc.). Learn the latest virtual meeting tools available, as this is an option as well. Extend an invitation for a cup of coffee instead of asking them for a meeting. Buying someone a cup of coffee and asking them to meet you at a coffee shop may sound like a subtle difference, it’s not. Another way to connect is by offering to bring lunch to their office. You will learn a lot just by seeing the mentor in their professional setting.

Mark tasks complete in PRISM.

It is your responsibility to mark things finished in a PRISM mentoring series. This is the best way to help you remember and track your progress.

Be humble; be respectful. Learning can be challenging, and mentors are encouraged to challenge you.

It can be hard to hear you didn’t handle a situation in the best way or that your expectations are out of line. Similarly, you may disagree with the advice of your mentor at one point or another. Consider their perspective and experience; don’t just dismiss the recommendation. It is advice. Ultimately it is up to you to decide if and how you use it.

Conduct yourself professionally.

If your mentor introduces you to one of their professional contacts, be prompt and professional with your follow up. Your interactions with anyone your mentor may introduce you to have consequences for your mentor. If you are unprofessional, it reflects poorly on your mentor. You can always ask your mentor things to help set expectations “How professional should I dress? Should I wear a suit?” Your mentor will know who they are introducing you to and therefore can help give the appropriate attire recommendations.

Ask for advice, not a job.

Never ask your mentor for a job. Similarly, if your mentor makes an introduction, do not ask this person for employment. Follow the PRISM Networking Process. BUILD and DISCOVER before you CONNECT. When it’s time to CONNECT, extend an invitation for a cup of coffee instead of asking them for a meeting. The outcome may be that you have created an opportunity for employment, but it will be through genuine relationship building and the desire that your network may have to help you out.

Asking for advice may lead to a job opportunity, but never directly ask a mentor for a job.

In the end, the mentoring opportunity is a two-way street. Set the speed and direction that you want to go with your mentor or mentee. Both of you should decide how to give of their time and interest. And this should be a relationship that you both build in a way that is genuine to you both. PRISM Mentoring is a tool that can help guide this process, but in the end, it is up to you both. By setting the ground-rules and expectations together, you will have taken the first step to creating this enriching experience. If you have other tips or ideas on how to create a valuable mentorship, please share your comments below.

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