Dec 9, 2022 Vas Nair

Tips To Design A Strong Mentoring Partnership

I’ve had a mentor for most of my career, explains Lin, an architect in a mid-sized firm in downtown Chicago. When I first entered the workforce, I found it super challenging to find a job that I could get my teeth into. After years of doing it on my own, and 2 unsuccessful career choices, I reached out to a retired professor from my business school, who was kind enough to take up the challenge! Our partnership has helped us both grow and evolve (in different ways)…and yes, it’s a partnership!

A man and woman sipping coffee at a table talking about mentoring and mentorship

Like many successful ‘partnerships’, mentoring can bring meaningful experiences, learning and highly rewarding outcomes into one’s life. And like all partnerships, it requires effective communication, focus, honesty, and nurturing. I agree that it can be a partnership because both parties can benefit from the arrangement. Having mentored others, I can certainly attest to this.

A mentor can be your professional development guide – a sounding board. This is someone who can guide you and be honest in their conversations with you. This person is your trusted advisor, who gets satisfaction from watching you learn, develop, and be successful. They add value by sharing insights and asking questions, so that you can learn from their experiences as well as your own; and sometimes think outside your comfort zone to achieve your goals. The conversations can provide important lessons from both the ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ experiences.

Choosing a mentor

People seek out a mentor for many reasons. However most look for career guidance and opportunities to broaden their professional network. Oftentimes a mentor assists in developing a specific leadership quality, help advance technical capabilities or will share personal lessons about lifestyle changes and work life balance. They might be the facilitator who can connect with others in their network and therefore opening opportunities you wouldn’t have achieved on your own.

Your mentor will likely come from a similar organization or industry, have had a professional pathway that interests you and is someone whose advice you highly respect. Sometimes choosing someone from a different walk of life can also be beneficial. For one thing, they won’t come with any biases and can be objective in their assessment of your scenario. The bottom line is that your mentor should be someone you trust; someone who will be honest and have your professional development and success in mind. Conversations with the right mentor can be very engaging and motivating. Part of their goal is to help you reach your highest potential.

How to make this work

If you’re thinking about getting a mentor, here are a few steps to consider and plan for;

Be very clear about why you want a mentor, and what you hope to achieve from the relationship. Think carefully about why this is important to you and how you plan to use their guidance.

Speak to friends and colleagues who have had mentors, as well as those who have mentored others. The more you research, the higher your level of readiness to customize a mentoring partnership to meet your needs.

Approach someone you hold in high regard and has expertise in the areas that you need guidance.

Be crystal clear about your ask. Share your list about what you’re hoping to achieve and why it’s important to you. This also helps them determine if the fit is right and how they can best assist you.

Set up regular meetings or calls that you both can commit to. You can take a structured approach or be somewhat organic about this. It boils down to what will work for both of you. Think about doing this for a specific time period (say 6 months) and re-visit it to determine how well it’s working. You may both decide to continue the conversations or evolve to a new area of interest or part ways if you’ve met your objectives.

Make sure that you’re in the driver’s seat. Take accountability for setting up the meetings or calls. Send an email before each discussion to outline what you would like to discuss, as this will set you both up for a meaningful conversation. Regularly ask them for feedback on how they think it’s going and share your point of view on how it’s benefiting you. Creating this feedback loop helps strengthen the relationship, while remaining focused on meeting your goals.

Establishing a successful mentoring relationship can result in gaining more confidence and will help you determine how best to tackle your professional and personal goals. Having someone to bounce ideas with can help you further prioritize your goals, plus getting timely feedback along the way adds to your own development. Finally, knowing that you need to complete agreed upon tasks before speaking with your mentor will keep you on track.

When it’s time to pay it forward and share your own experience, perhaps you’ll consider being a mentor yourself!

Giraffe HR App - Creators Vas Nair and Sobha Nair

Hi there!

We’re Vas and Sobha Nair, two sisters that have lived and breathed all aspects of human resources for over 50 years between us. Giraffe was born from our global experience coaching leaders and business owners navigate the same tricky workplace issues and discussions that you face. We know the best practices and proven processes that help turn workplace conflict on its head – and we want to share all of this and more with you in Giraffe.

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