Mentoring is very often cited as an excellent way for “up and comers” to learn, and it can also be very rewarding to the mentor as they help those early in their career.
“There are two ways to acquire wisdom; you can either buy it or borrow it.” Benjamin Franklin
I have had mixed success as a mentor, and while some people will say I have helped them in their career, there have been a number of occasions where I felt I had provided very little value and in fact the experience had been a waste of my time and their time.
I certainly can’t profess to be a great mentor, but I can share some of the lessons I have learned, the hard way:
Put the emphasis on the mentee. The mentee needs to do the work of deciding where they need help.
Have a formal agenda, ahead of time, for any meeting.
Don’t wing it… know the topics for discussion ahead of time.
It is OK to let the conversation wander, after the agenda is done.
The concept of a mentor/mentee relationship is often very attractive, but there is a lot of work involved… don’t commit to the relationship if both parties are not willing to commit to the work!
Informal chats with people can bring value, but it can equally be a waste of time. My advice to anyone considering being a mentor is to ensure the mentee is prepared well.
“For every one of us that succeeds, it is because there’s somebody there to show you the way out.” Oprah Winfrey
I will reiterate that there is much to be gained from having a mentor and in being a mentor. The effort is worth the result, but without the effort it is very likely to be another conversation with little value.