Mentorship can have transformative effects for both the mentor and the mentee. As many people advance through their careers, they lose sight of how valuable the mentor-mentee relationship can be.
Don't let yourself get so caught up in your own schedule that you miss out on mentorship opportunities. Being a mentor can make a difference in someone else's life and bring fulfillment to you throughout your career.
As a technology leader and director of a nonprofit focused on education, I've spent years focusing on defining what mentorship is.
It means learning how to motivate and inspire
One of the most important aspects of mentorship is helping your mentees build a passion for learning. It's your job to nurture their drive. That's why you need to develop the ability to inspire those around you.
When a person is early in their career, they're more likely to experience setbacks, a lack of recognition, and even criticism or discouragement from those around them. If you can create a sense of resilience in your mentees, they'll be able to push past that stage and come out on top.
It means proactively looking for rising talent
I recently spoke with Hiruy Amanuel, philanthropist and managing director of Gullít. After building his own successful career in investment, Amanuel wanted to build a training program that mentors African youth, helping them become skilled, ambitious software developers.
Amanuel discussed the importance of seeking out opportunities to teach rising talent, rather than waiting for them to come to you. He developed an eye for recognizing exciting investment opportunities through his career in venture capital, and finding mentorship opportunities works similarly.
Africa is an area where mentorship could make a significant difference in many people's lives. The tech sector was not yet as strong as it could be, so there was a tremendous opportunity for growth for many young people if given the chance to develop the right skills. Gifted mentors are always on the lookout for people who could benefit from their guidance in any way.
It means practicing empathy and active listening
The most effective mentors are empathetic and excellent listeners. Each person needs different levels of support, advice, and motivation. Empathy allows you to evaluate what your mentee needs to really thrive.
You can build that empathy by being a good listener. Ask questions and give your full attention to your mentee while they're talking. Try to understand their position first before you offer advice.
You'll give better guidance if you know the nuances of your mentee's personality and circumstances. You'll also be better able to build a trusting relationship, where your mentee feels comfortable approaching you with a problem when they know you want to understand them.
It means being kind, but with honest feedback
A mentor is responsible for delivering feedback, even when that feedback is negative. Mentors aren't supposed to be cheerleaders. Sometimes it's important to deliver harsh feedback. Don't be afraid to tell your mentee the things they need to hear. Luckily, you can develop ways to do this kindly.
The kindest way to deliver harsh feedback is to stick to the facts. Present the information to your mentee without judgment. Give clear instructions for how they can improve and include encouragement that they will be able to learn from their mistakes. Remind your mentee that constructive feedback is essential for growth.
Remember that avoiding criticism in an effort to make your mentee feel better is not going to lead to their eventual success. At the same time, you should remember that delivering harsh feedback without any effort to be kind can damage your relationship and make your mentee less likely to approach you in the future.
It means you'll need to continue to develop your expertise
The best mentors never stop learning. To be able to share your expertise with the next generation, you need to be continuously working to expand your knowledge and stay up-to-date on the latest innovations in your field.
As a mentor, you should be reading the latest news and data in your field. Attend conferences and workshops, and don't stop networking. All of these things will give you a better background in your industry, which will allow you to better support up-and-coming professionals who look to you as a role model and mentor.
You can start today
One of the easiest things I've personally done is publish 15-minute meeting slots on my calendar for anyone to book one-on-one mentor sessions with me. This lowers the barrier of entry to provide mentorship -- and lowers my time burden.
No matter what you decide to do, remember that mentorship played a huge role in where you are today -- so it's a great idea to pass on your knowledge to the next generation.