How to become a business mentor

As you progress in your career, there may come a point where you feel called to share your experiences and learnings to offer guidance to the next generation of leaders. Whether you have been mentored yourself or have received support or advice from colleagues or those you look up to, you will understand the immense value of a mentoring relationship.

Business mentors can have a profound impact on an individual’s career trajectory by serving as a sounding board, guiding them through career transitions and challenges, offering new perspectives and insights, as well as more practical support such as connecting them with contacts, resources and opportunities.

Types of mentors

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes – in fact, many organisations are now offering ‘reverse mentors’ who offer advice to those in more senior positions! Regardless of your role or seniority, there is sure to be someone in your personal or professional networks who could benefit from your unique experiences and skills. As a mentor, you can wear a number of hats depending on your mentee’s needs:

  • Experienced subject-matter expert, offering a blueprint for those who wish to follow a similar path
  • Sponsor, advocating for your mentee, helping to open doors for them, making connections, and creating momentum
  • Confidante, being someone your mentee can confide in and turn to for motivation
  • Coach, challenging your mentee to be the best they can be, identifying opportunities for progression, and helping them achieve their goals
  • Sounding board, brainstorming with them, offering new perspectives and helping them to action plans.

Why you should consider mentoring

The benefits of mentoring are not purely for the mentee – a mentor has just as much to gain from this relationship, whether formal or informal.

Mentoring is an important addition to your CV and can aid future career prospects. Through the mentoring process, you can hone your communication, problem-solving and coaching skills, which are important qualities of any leader. You also stand to learn new ways of working and gain fresh perspectives from your mentee, as well as staying up to date with the latest trends in your industry and profession. You can also use mentoring sessions to reinforce existing knowledge simply through the act of sharing your experience and skills.

The exposure you receive as a mentor can also help you to create new connections and become recognized as a leader in your field. Not to mention the invaluable sense of achievement and fulfillment you receive from giving back and helping to shape someone’s career and life.

How to be an effective mentor

There are many ways to approach mentoring and a successful mentoring relationship is dependent on what each party hopes to take from it. As such, it’s crucial that you set expectations from the outset and agree on a framework, timings and objectives so you are on the same page and can keep each other accountable. While some mentees may prefer regular, scheduled meetings, other mentees may opt for a less formal approach – it is certainly not one size fits all.

Regardless of your approach, it’s important you do the following as a mentor:

  • Commit – keeping your appointments and being present as a mentor helps to build trust
  • Use effective communication – know when to listen and when to give advice
  • Be curious – ask questions, take an interest and challenge as appropriate
  • Keep it constructive – while it’s important to remain honest with your feedback, try to keep your feedback positive
  • Celebrate – both the big and small wins, making an effort to motivate and encourage your mentee
  • Be generous – with your time, connections and experience
  • Role model – don’t offer advice that you don’t practice yourself
  • Stay open – understand your mentee’s journey is unique and try not to project your own expectations or biases
  • Challenge – don’t be afraid to challenge their ways of thinking as this can promote growth
  • Don’t overstep – while you can certainly offer suggestions and resources, it is ultimately the mentee who needs to take action.

How to get started as a mentor

A great place to start is within your own organisation – reach out to your HR department to establish whether there is an existing mentoring program in place or the potential for one to be launched. Alternatively, there are many professional and industry networks that offer mentoring programs that can connect you with mentees. You may also consider your own personal networks, networking events or social media networks – simply putting it out to your connections can be a great place to start.

For more ideas on how to get an edge in your career and become a leader others aspire to become, check out the Emerging Leaders Summits in Australia and New Zealand.

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