(even if you have never done it before!)
If you have reached a senior, established professional level in your career, chances are you have received help from other professionals in crucial times of your work-life (be it a decision to move to another company, a promotion, a difficult time with a manager, etc).
Well, now that you are more established and comfortable in your shoes, it is time to pay it back!
There are various ways in which you can do it, a particularly rewarding one could be mentoring.
But how to be a good mentor, even if you have approached this task for the first time in your life? There are tips and tricks to pull it off like a pro! The most used ones we collected below!
1. Set expectations, ground rules (and a clear schedule)
Define what you and your mentee expect out of the conversations you are starting up — considering you are most likely strangers, it might take a couple of sessions to assess your mentees’ goals and expectations, as well as yours, in order for both to be on the same page and establish an appropriate level of trust and confidence.
Point out what you expect of them (to come prepared to the session with clear problems or struggles) and explicit what you are open to do for them (guide, suggest options, ask the right questions, enlighten on scenarios they didn’t think of, etc)
2. Come prepared
Once goals are set and expectations are managed, be sure you come prepared to each and every meeting you have agreed to attend. Time is obviously too precious to waste half of the session in trying to figure out what problem to solve.
3. Be accountable to each other
If there is a promise from each of the side to follow up on a topic or issue, make sure you both hold accountable for it in order to cherish the trust and be productive towards reaching your goals.
4. It is ok to say 'I don’t know'
Whilst it’s expected that you are somewhat comfortable in answering most of the questions which are posed to you, considering you have properly identified mentees whom you can effectively help (people who are considerably more junior compared to your experience and whom could benefit from your knowledge);
it is absolutely acceptable to not always know everything or to ask for a follow up session to allow you the chance to research on the topic or issue being discussed.
This stresses even more the need of properly plan your sessions, so that topics are known in advance and accurate research can be done if needed.
5. Focus on listening
Whilst it should be clear you are happy and thrilled to support and help the other person, you should focus more on listening and asking questions rather than actually driving the conversation. Envision yourself as the driving instructor in the same car with the one learning how to drive. Ask the right questions and facilitate the learner in actually moving the car from A to B, without doing it yourself. In case needed, you can always pull the emergency break and stop the car from crashing.
Ultimately, you will serve as a sounding board to your mentees and, whilst doing this, have the chance to reflect on and articulate your own expertise and experience, something you probably don’t take time to do otherwise.
Mentoring might also help you view the organisation with a fresh eye toward its functions, politics and culture. You may, for example, gain a new understanding of how people from different generations or backgrounds approach their work and careers. Also, many mentors say they get personal satisfaction and fulfilment from their mentoring relationships.
If you’re feeling burned out or cynical, mentoring could give you and your career a boost.
The Product Lab has launched a free mentorship program in The Netherlands, aiming to help the product community grow further and support professionals become product leaders in their industries.For more information about mentorship programs, visit The Product Lab's website or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org