Mentoring for the first time? 14 tips to start off on the right foot

By Forbes Coaches Council, Forbes

Being asked to mentor someone can feel like an honor—but it can also feel overwhelming and intimidating, especially if you’ve never had a mentee before. You might question whether you’re even qualified to guide this person in their life or career. However, every expert must start somewhere.

We asked 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council to share their best advice for first-time mentors on how to take on a mentor-mentee relationship. Here’s how they recommend becoming a successful role model to your new mentee.

  1. Get To Know Your Mentee Well

Get to know your mentee. Ask them a lot of questions. Take the time to take note of what makes them tick. What are their challenges? Goals? How can you support them? It’s easy to want to tell someone what to do, but that’s not your role as a mentor. The more you get to know them, the more you can build on the foundation of a successful and productive relationship. – Joyel CrawfordCrawford Leadership Strategies, LLC.

  1. Understand What The Mentee Wants To Learn

As a first-time mentor, get to the core of what your mentee wants to learn. Mentors sometimes fall into the trap of doing more talking than listening. Understand why they picked you. What do they see in you that they want to develop? Talk about those objectives and then invite them to prepare the next time you use that skill. For example, they love your presentation style. Work on it together! – Christine MannMANN Consulting, LLC

  1. Help With The Little Things

Often mentors want to provide big insights and give general advice. The best mentors are willing to help with little things that are actually big things. Mentors should be willing to speak to the mentees about how to craft an appropriate email, create a great presentation in PowerPoint and how to dress for different events. Mentors who are willing to get in the detail muck make a huge difference. – John M. O’ConnorCareer Pro Inc.

  1. Know Yourself

Take time to assess exactly what you have to offer as a mentor—your skills, strengths, experiences, knowledge and networks. Go into the relationship knowing what you bring to the table and then partner with your mentee to see how that aligns with what they want to learn and share. Then you both can work together to make it a mutually engaging relationship. – Tonya EcholsVigere

  1. Remember Your Mentee’s Situation

It’s difficult, but important to balance the huge amount of experience (that qualifies you as a mentor) and the situation the mentee is in. A mentor has to remember what it was like when they were in this early stage, because not everything they can do now is also suitable for a mentee. The main question is: Is this advice (e.g. what I would do) also applicable in this very different situation? – Felix

  1. Establish Expectations

As a mentor, it is important to set very clear expectations of what a thriving mentoring relationship looks like to your mentee. Firstly, the mentee needs to have a purpose for the mentoring relationship to be impactful. Secondly, the onus of taking notes, setting action items, learning and applying are on the mentee. As a mentor, you are there to provide guidance and support to further their goals. – Erin UrbanUPPSolutions, LLC

  1. Let The Mentee Lead

Much like coaching, mentoring is about guiding and empowering, not directing. Making the mentee the star—giving encouragement, helping identify skills and resources they both have and need, exploring ideas to reach their goals—is more meaningful than being prescriptive. Know what the mentee seeks from the relationship and let them lead. Use your expertise only to inform your questions. – Sheryl LyonsCulture Spark LLC


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