Whether you’ve recently taken a mentee under your wing or you’ve just landed yourself an amazing mentor, you’re no doubt excited about the prospects of working together in a mentorship capacity. Mentees hope to grow and learn while mentors hope to pass along their knowledge and wisdom to future leaders. It’s a great opportunity for both.
Not everyone knows how to make the most of the mentor/mentee relationship. If you really want to get as much as you can out of a mentorship, follow some of these tips.
Mentees: Think for Yourself
Some mentees are eager to impress or please their mentors. They think becoming more adept at the role they want to grow into means mimicking everything the mentor does. After all, the mentor is successful in their role for a reason.
When it comes to solving problems or offering up new solutions, these mentees try to anticipate what their mentor would do. This is not the point of mentorship. Your mentor should instead encourage you to think for yourself. Don’t be afraid to pitch new ideas or solutions, even if they don’t seem like the kinds of actions your mentor would take.
The point of mentorship is to learn how to think, which includes creative problem solving and critical thinking skills. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes either. Your mentor should engage you in dialogue about your ideas before you put a plan into action.
Mentors: Take a Step Back
It’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of showing mentees what to do and acting for them. In fact, some mentees do mime their mentors. Take a step back and give the mentee space to think and act for themselves.
Mentorship is often more about helping the mentee develop the skills they’ll need in the future. While you may be excellent at your job (and mimicking you isn’t exactly wrong), your mentee should be learning problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They’ll encounter situations where they can’t turn to you for advice. They’ll also be faced with new problems and new situations you’ve never dreamed of.
While you shouldn’t necessarily allow your mentee to implement a faulty action plan, taking a step back and allowing them to critically think about a problem or proposed solution will do them more good than if you simply tell them how to do something.
Mentors: Don’t Forget about Life Experience
You can envision yourself as a sage, imparting wisdom to the future leaders. Your work experience and skills are very important, but don’t forget about your life experiences. While your experience may not be one-for-one with a problem confronting your mentee, there may be some valuable insights gleaned from sharing an experience.
For example, you might share an experience in which you made a big mistake but learned a valuable lesson. Maybe the “big mistake” only seemed to be a mistake at the time. Use these experiences to relate to what your mentee is experiencing and help them see problems and solutions in a new light.
Mentees: Respect That Your Path Is Different
Your mentor started their journey before you did, which is why they’re where they are today. You’ll have a different path laid out before you. This is especially true in the world of IT, where change has been the norm for the last three decades. Someone who started out in the late 1980s or early 1990s had very different opportunities in a very different world from those you have now.
You won’t follow the same path to success. Nonetheless, you can still learn a lot from your mentor. Many skills, such as good communication and good leadership, are relatively static over time.
Working together to develop these skills will help both you and your mentor make the most of your relationship.