Establishing a Foundation for Mentorship

In January, we celebrate National Mentoring Month. Mentorship provides us with valuable lessons and helps to unlock our full potential. Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have learned from great mentors about how to build my confidence, seek new opportunities and expand my knowledge and skillset. While helping aspiring small business owners become unstoppable – opening and successfully running The UPS Store centers – I’ve learned what it means to provide mentorship to others effectively. In the spirit of mentoring, I’m sharing my tips for those looking to step into a mentorship role. 

1. Be Approachable

Mentorship is a relationship at its core. When mentors are approachable, it’s encouraging for mentees to build and develop that relationship.

While mentors have a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to share, these qualities can intimidate those seeking mentorship. Mentees must be comfortable asking questions or seeking advice from their mentors. 

If you’re looking to take on a mentoring role, you should be making a conscious effort to present yourself as available and approachable. It isn’t enough to consider yourself approachable. You need to take active steps to become more approachable and ensure others see you this way. 

Finding a mentor takes time. Those interested in becoming mentors can make this process less challenging by being open and interested in helping others grow.

2. Listen Actively

The knowledge and insight mentors share with mentees are invaluable. While mentorship requires mentors to answer questions and share advice, it is equally necessary for mentors to take a backseat and let their mentees do the talking.

Effective listening means listening to understand. During your conversations, give your undivided attention, take notes and absorb the information, ask questions to gain clarity and confirm you correctly understand what they are saying. 

When mentoring someone, you should determine how you can help them grow and move forward in their journey. With a focus on active listening, this answer doesn’t have to come from yourself. To best meet your mentee’s needs, ask your mentee what advice and guidance would be helpful and confirm the role they envision you playing in their journey. 

3. Show You’re Invested

Mentoring should consist of more than just conversations. In my experience, the best mentors show investment in your development through their actions. 

Think about what was most helpful for you during the beginning stages of your career. Many people would agree that shadowing was essential to their development. Being that my top priority as a leader is to develop other leaders and provide opportunities for them to learn, I recommend identifying shadowing opportunities and scheduling conversations to review projects and provide feedback. 

Another simple and effective way to show up for your mentee is to make referrals or introductions. If there are conversations about an upcoming project that aligns with an interest or passion that your mentee has previously shared with you, consider recommending them for the work. Similarly, you can introduce them to key players that can provide them with more growth opportunities. 

4. Build Trust

Trust is at the foundation of any successful relationship and is especially important between a mentor and mentee.

We’re taught to be buttoned-up when it comes to our professional persona, but the truth is that we can benefit from vulnerability. Part of being a great mentor is building trust and creating a space where your mentee feels comfortable having difficult conversations, whether those be about professional stagnancy or salary negotiations.

Vulnerability should be a two-way street. As much as your mentee needs a place to be open and honest, they can also benefit from seeing your vulnerable side. Hearing from mentors about their personal mistakes, weaknesses and shortcomings can be reassuring to mentees who may have doubts about themselves when going through similar experiences.

While mentoring requires time and dedication, it provides an enriching experience for you and your mentee. I encourage you to think about how your previous mentors have helped you develop, and I hope you give back to a young professional in need.

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