Being and Effective Mentor : Feature Article, Nov'07

One of the important ways to develop your career is by having a good mentor. But did you know you can develop your career not only by being mentored, but by mentoring others. Now before you switch off from this subject thinking you are too junior in your company to be a mentor, do read further to find out more about mentoring. Then decide whether you can be a mentor and whether it is worthwhile being one!

Understanding mentoring

A mentor is one who offers knowledge, insight, perspective or wisdom that is especially useful to the other person. He is a career counselor, a coach, a guide, a motivator, a role model and a teacher.  A mentor’s role is to help the mentee reach his/her goals.

A mentee is a person being mentored by another person; especially one who makes an effort to assess, internalize and use effectively the knowledge, skills, insights, perspective or wisdom offered by the mentor.

A mentoring relationship is mentee-centered. The mentor listens, sometimes challenges, offers insights and encourages. The relationship needs reasonably frequent and consistent contact. Both partners contribute, change and grow. In an informal mentoring relationship someone takes an interest in us, or we in them. A formal mentoring relationship has an acknowledged commitment of time and energy for the purpose of guiding and sharing. Both types can be for specific projects or for extended time periods.

You need not be in a senior role in the company to become a mentor. Yes, being a mentor to somebody if you are just out of college is difficult, but if you have worked successfully for a couple of years you have the basic qualification required for being a mentor. However, all successful people do not necessarily make effective mentors; certain individuals are more effective in the role of developing others. Whether or not an individual is suited to the role of mentor may depend on his or her own stage of development and experience. So what else does it take to be a good mentor?


Characteristics of a good mentor

Some of the common characteristics of good mentors are:-

  1. Genuine interest in and commitment to others’ growth: Mentoring requires that you be sincerely interested in someone else’s growth and be willing to motivate and support others to learn and grow. A mentor can significantly influence another person’s life. Time and energy over a period of time is necessary for such a relationship. You must be able to devote the same to your mentee.

  2. Approachable and welcoming: A mentor should be easy to talk to so that the mentee can talk about anything with the mentor, not just a technical subject. And it is so much easier to talk to a person who is warm and encouraging. Establishing a good rapport with mentee is important for being approachable.

  3. Good listener: Your focus should be to LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN!! Listening carefully will help you understand the perspective of the mentee and this will in turn help you cater to the individual needs of each mentee.

  4. Gives advice without dictating actions: Help your mentees organize their own thoughts. Help with their focus. Help them think about what they can do to be successful, not what you did to be successful. Understand their problems and offer solutions. But be clear that any decisions made should be made by them. They have to figure things out for themselves.

  5. Encourages independence yet offers support: Encourage your mentee to be independent. Also offer support by sharing your knowledge and experience, including successes and failures. A good mentor should stick up for and look out for the best interests of the person being mentored. Being aware of resources and support systems within the company will aid you in the same

  6. Good role model through actions and words: Mentors must provide a good example of a successful career. They must demonstrate what they are advising. Having someone tell you what you should do carries much less weight than seeing someone act it out.

  7. Encourages and demonstrates confidence in mentee: A key characteristic of a good mentor is the "I-know-you-can-do-it’ attitude. As a mentor you must believe in your mentee’s capabilities and ability to succeed. This will also help build your mentee’s self-confidence. Offer constructive criticism as well as compliments to encourage him/her.

  8. Exhibits patience: People can't be expected to learn all at once. Remember that you didn't know everything all the time. So patience will help you push your mentees gently towards their goal achievement.

  9. Willing to admit they don't know everything: Individuals who are still willing and able to learn make good mentors. This also includes an ability to accept different points of view.

  10. Inspires trust: A mentor should respect the confidentiality of the mentoring relationship. The discussions held during the relationship is solely for the purpose of developing the mentee and not for any other purpose like finding out what the mentee thinks so that he/she can be manipulated to meet one’s ulterior motives.

So does it look like you have the making of good mentor? If yes, read further to find out why you should consider taking up the role of a mentor.


Benefits of being a mentor

According to research sponsored by AOL Time Warner Foundation and conducted by Pathfinder Research and Market Facts, 99% of people who mentor through formal mentoring programs recommend it to others.  A mentor once said, "I didn't know in advance how rewarding it was going to be, so I was worried about the responsibility of giving my time consistently.  The irony is that once I started doing it, I didn't want to miss a session."

While mentoring others does help in your career development they also provide you with many other benefits as listed below:-

How can anybody become a mentor?

OK now you are all charged up and want to be a mentor and it strikes you that you don’t know how to find your mentee. Start by looking around in your workplace. You are likely to find a candidate among your own team members. However, it is best that you do not mentor somebody who reports to you to avoid conflicts between work and mentoring goals. You can even identify somebody from another department since your mentee need not necessarily be from the same profession like Finance or Sales.
If you are known for your knowledge and expertise in the company, mentees will come looking for you. In that case examine your time commitments before committing to a mentoring relationship.

Your company may ask for volunteers to be mentors for the formal “mentoring” or in the case of junior people “buddy” programs. Go ahead and volunteer! Unlike formal mentoring programs, in informal mentoring relationships, you will have to take more initiative to maintain it and get the best out it.


Why do people become mentors? The answers vary. Some of us just want to be a positive influence on others, or give something to their community. And some of us were fortunate to have had a mentor and want to repay that by mentoring others. What ever is your reason for being a mentor, you will find it a rewarding experience. Nothing can beat the satisfaction of seeing somebody reach their goals and achieve their dreams in front of you.



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