Most young professionals who are interested in evolving strategically in their career seek mentorship. The 1:1 guidance from a respected and successful business person is unparalleled—mentees are granted access to a wealth of knowledge, insights, and personalized advice. And in a post COVID-19 world where career paths are being redefined, mentorship is more important than ever before.
As National Mentoring Day is October 27th, it’s the perfect time to thank your mentor, reconnect with your mentee, or reach out to promising employees at your company who will benefit from your mentorship. If you’ve never mentored before or want to ensure you’re showing up as a reliable resource, we’ve outlined some basic topics and skills most mentees are interested in talking about or honing.
It’s important to start a mentoring relationship by understanding what your mentee needs at this moment in time. The pandemic has changed so much for your organization and its individuals, and the needs of a mentee are changing as well. As a business leader, you understand how to successfully show up to a work meeting, investor call, or sales pitch—you come prepared. Do the same for check-ins with your mentee.
After you find out more about their current and past experience, learn about their aspirations. Basing a mentoring relationship in positivity and helpfulness is key. Here are some areas of professional interest a mentor might help with:
- Strategy: how to be strategic in your career, being forward-thinking about career next steps, what positions are available and attainable at their specific company or in their field of work
- Networking: who to talk to, what groups to join, and what events to attend – while many in-person events are currently on hold, there are many virtual events that are encouraging interaction as well as virtual networking groups including a wide variety of external Slack groups broken down by industry and role
- Leadership: how to position yourself as a potential leader, best practices around successful communication, books to read, insights and learnings
- Goals: Setting short- and long-term goals, holding accountability, how to accomplish your goals, writing insightful and meaningful goals
- Career Progression: how to ask for a raise or promotion and identifying when it is appropriate given current business constraints due to the pandemic, preparing for performance reviews or asking to take on new assignments for visibility or exposure
- Adjustment: how to start a new job or role, how to work with new team members or a new boss, how to be a successful manager, how to adjust when your role changes due to major shifts like pandemic response or an acquisition
How do mentoring relationships start? As a leader, you may be approached by a younger employee or teammate asking for advice. But a great mentor is a proactive one. Devon, a Sales Development Representative at betterworks, was approached by our CMO Luanne Tierney who noticed she was a strong performer with great ideas but would often hold back in meetings. Luanne offered to mentor Devon and give her an opportunity to have confidential conversations around her goals, roadblocks, and ways in which she could showcase her strengths.
Devon was approached by her mentor, Luanne, at the perfect time. Devon had been in her current role for a while and was unsure about her next career move. Luanne encouraged her to identify and focus on her long-term and short-term goals, gave her advice on speaking up in meetings, and suggested a couple of books/podcasts that could be helpful to address some of the challenges she was facing.
Since working with Luanne, Devon has recently taken a new role and been promoted to the Customer Success team. Devon and Luanne have bi-weekly 1:1 check-in meetings, they’re putting together a 5 and 10-year professional career plan, and Devon has proactively reached out to external mentors in addition to Luanne to help grow her network and expand her community of experienced leaders.
It’s generally thought that a mentoring relationship is between two people who are in the same line of work. This isn’t always the case, however, as many mentorships are built on qualities a mentee admires in a mentor: industry, experience, communication skills, being a strong woman in leadership, public speaking ability, etc.
Luanne Tierney has mentored many young women throughout her career. She’s recapped some of the success strategies she has recommended as a mentor and female leader.
- Gain visibility within the company. Luanne suggests to her mentees to get to know coworkers and leaders from different departments. While this is more difficult to do remotely, adding 15 minutes to someone’s calendar to have a conversational Zoom meeting can go a long way. “This helps the person better understand what the other departments are doing and thus to better represent the company. As a result, the individual will not only meet new acquaintances, but people will take note of their willingness to learn about different roles. They will also be more inclined to support this person if/when they reach out.”
- Avoid being overlooked. This advice is especially important for women where prospects or clients or coworkers acknowledge men first in a room. “I advise to stop waiting to be acknowledged and to proactively introduce themselves.” In more recent times of Zoom meetings where it’s far too easy to hide behind a mute button, finding the right time to speak up in discussions is vital to being noticed.
- Get recognition for delivering. Closing a major deal or finalizing a pivotal project are huge stepping stones that shouldn’t be overlooked by management. “I suggest taking more ownership of their successes and not just relying on their manager to give credit and being proactive about giving shoutouts to others. It’s up to you to create your own buzz for what you deliver, especially for women. I love the quote from Dolly Singh, ‘Results have no gender.’”
- Ask about positioning. When starting out in business or embarking on a new job, it’s important for a person to know where they sit in terms of the salary range and advancement for their position. “Asking about your salary range is something you can bring up to a boss or to an HR manager. For young women in particular, it’s so important to be confident in terms of pay.”
The rewards of a mentoring relationship are reaped by both parties—you’re passing along valuable information and getting the fulfillment of helping an aspiring leader grow in their professional career. Celebrate National Mentoring Day by finding a mentor, starting a mentoring program in your organization, or simply sending your mentee an encouraging note.