It’s all quite easy to say, ‘Get a mentor’. But becoming one isn’t a cakewalk. There are many things that go into it. Here are some of the qualities you need to excel at mentoring. And remember that mentoring is always a ‘work in progress’. You are forever sharing your expertise with your mentee but also gaining much more insight from your mentee in return. This information exchange will always make your job, a constantly learning cycle that never stops. Good for you, because if the mentor-mentee relationship was scripted, there would be no chemistry and no real collaboration or mutual inspiration.
Have it in you
Yes, there are only so many things that one can be good at, and then some. To begin with, you should be a great motivational factor for your mentee. Your past experience should inspire and goad your subject to go where they have never imagined before. Setting targets is not just it. You have to listen to them patiently, understand their strengths and be their strength. Ignore their weaknesses and enhance their strong points. Step into their shoes and try to solve the problem from their point of view, through deep empathy and better understanding. Importantly, you should cater to your mentee’s every need with much sensitivity. Neither can you praise them to the skies, nor can you bring them down with a thud. It’s a tightrope walk.
Figure it out
There are always problems in a mentee and in any mentor-mentee relationship. You have to figure it out, both in setting your personal equation with your pupil and also your idea of what they can be under your guidance and supervision. You should figure out the strategies keeping the end-goal in mind, and all will fall into place, eventually.
Move like Jagger
You should be able to move like the great musician Mick Jagger. And we are not talking about dancing. Your mind should be flexible and ready to accept anything. Sometimes, your advice might be good but the way it was executed was bad, or your advice was not suitable to this particular mentee. Learn to accept failure and move on. Don’t try to find someone or something to pin your blame on. By mentoring someone, be open-minded enough to mentor yourself – learn from your mentee. It takes two to tango. If your relationship has to work with your mentee, you have to compromise, and still make it rock.
You don’t have to have Superman-like qualities to impress and inspire your mentee. Sometimes, what works is exactly the reverse. If you talk about how you failed getting a contract or how you were rejected by the company you dreamed of or how you misread your job profile and landed up in the wrong department, it immediately puts your mentee in familiar surroundings. Not only do your failure stories break the ice between you two but also make you more relatable to your mentee. Talk about your time of sharing lunches because you had little money or how you worked out of coffee shops because you couldn’t afford an office. All of these will only make your mentee respect you more. Your pupil already knows your ‘riches story’; focus on the ‘rags’ and you have a cool chemistry going.
Also published on Medium.