Being a Mentor
The role of a mentor is to guide and support another person, either generally or in a particular area of their life, assisting in their growth and development. Mentoring another woman can be a very rewarding experience, and an effective way to help her to achieve her potential. It can feel satisfying and valuable to share your knowledge and experience with a woman who is exploring her own journey, and watch her learn and grow. Mentoring can also be a wonderful development opportunity for the mentor, as the mentee brings her own knowledge and experience, and learning and sharing of ideas is always a two-way process.
As a mentor, you make a real commitment, of yourself and of your time. Being a mentor requires a genuine desire to assist and support another person. It also requires the time to commit to mentoring another person.
Do you have experience at being a mentor or would you like to develop your skills and ability to support another woman as a mentor?
- Do you have the enthusiasm, willingness and ability to commit to a mentoring relationship?
- Are you ready to listen to your mentee, take an interest and ask questions?
- Are you open to sharing your experiences?
- Will you be there to support, encourage and inspire your mentee?
It’s important to remember that everyone has strengths and resources for their own empowerment, and that as a mentor, your role is to support your mentee to come to her own decisions rather than to give definitive advice.
Would you be happy to assist your mentee to identify her strengths, and to assist her reflection and learning?
- Are you able to provide guidance, ideas and resources to assist your mentee’s learning?
- Could you encourage and assist in goal setting?
- Are you able to nurture confidence-building?
- Do you have a respectful, constructive approach to providing feedback?
- Could you exercise patience and allow time and space for your mentee’s development?
- Are you prepared to be self-reflective and understand the perspective you bring to the relationship?
If your answer to these questions is yes, read on!
The right match
Finding a good match of mentor and mentee is crucial to the success of the mentoring relationship. Factors to be considered in matching the mentor and mentee include skills and interests, experience, and availability and commitment of time. A good match will make it easier to communicate freely, achieve goals and simply to enjoy the experience of mentoring.
Aspects of a good match:
- The mentor and mentee share at least some common interests and passions
- There is compatibility with what the mentor has to offer and what the mentee seeks to gain
- There is a shared expectation of the time commitment involved in undertaking and sustaining the relationship.
As a mentor it is primarily your responsibility to guide, assist and support your mentee in the areas that she chooses, while the onus is on your mentee to drive the mentoring relationship, determining the pace for the relationship and articulating her goals. As a mentor, you have a number of other important responsibilities and obligations within the relationship.
- The mentor must provide a safe learning environment. The mentee is undertaking a journey of learning and the sessions must be a safe environment for her to have her opinions, dreams and problems heard, respected and responded to. You must be willing to support the mentee in her journey and be respectful and honest at all times.
- The mentor must assure confidentiality. Your mentee must be able to trust that the information she shares with you is safe and will not go any further. This trust will enable the mentee to open up and get the most out of the relationship.
- The mentor must be reliable and keep commitments with their mentee. Your mentee is relying on you to keep your commitments, so please try not to cancel appointments or meetings. This will also help to ensure that the mentee’s learning process is not disrupted.
Of course there may be times when you will not be able to keep a commitment or respond in a meaningful way, and in this case you should let the mentee know as soon as possible and reschedule your appointment.
- The mentor must allow the mentee to drive the relationship. Each mentee has a new and different set of needs. What suits one mentee may not be right for another. Each relationship should be driven by the mentee and structured in a way that is right for her to maximise her desired outcomes.
The first mentoring session is the time to set things up and agree on a plan for the relationship. Having a structure for the mentoring sessions will increase your mentee’s capacity to get the most out of each session. The mentee should determine the structure, but as the mentor, you could offer to assist in this process if required. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your mentoring sessions. This will both keep you on track and also help you to assess your progress during and at the end of the relationship.
Questions to consider as you are getting started include:
- What does the mentee seek to achieve from the mentoring relationship? What do you as the mentor seek to achieve?
- How often will you meet, and how long will the sessions be? Will you engage at a specific and regular time and day, or only as required?
- Will the mentee develop a forward plan of topics to discuss each session, or will she decide after each session what you will discuss the next time? Does the mentee need assistance with developing a forward plan?
- For how long would the mentee like the mentoring relationship to continue? Does she seek mentoring for a short period of time to assist her to achieve a particular outcome, or would she like mentoring to continue on an ongoing or medium-term basis? What is your expectation about how long the mentoring relationship might continue?
- It can be very useful to acknowledge upfront that as growth and development occurs or expectations change, it may no longer be useful for the mentoring relationship to continue. Often the mentoring relationship has a natural end and this is okay.
Challenges of mentoring
As with any personal or professional relationships, sometimes challenges arise during the course of mentoring relationships, and these should be dealt with promptly and respectfully.
- Challenges may occur when the mentee and mentor have different expectations of what the relationship should look like or what it can deliver. It can help to establish an agreement for the relationship, including the mentee’s goals and a schedule for the sessions with expected outcomes for each session.
- Sometimes simple lack of time can get in the way of a productive mentoring relationship. Ensure you have a shared understanding of the time commitment and turnaround time for responses. If for whatever reason either party is unable to keep a time commitment or respond in a meaningful way due to time constraints, this should be communicated clearly.
- Life changes for either the mentor or mentee can disrupt the relationship or can sometimes require it to be unexpectedly ended. Wherever possible, reasonable prior notice should be given to the other person of any changes to what has been the agreed arrangement. Where reasonable prior notice is not possible, the changes need to be communicated to the other person as soon as possible.
- Miscommunication can create challenges. Both people within the relationship need to be able to communicate clearly and freely with each other. Communication must be respectful at all times.
Remember, mentoring should be a mutually rewarding and enjoyable experience!
It is important to regularly reflect on the mentoring relationship and assess how it’s going, for both you and your mentee. It might be useful to have this discussion with your mentee.
Is the mentoring relationship working? Why? Why not?
- Do you think your mentee is benefiting from the experience? Do you think her expectations are being met?
- Do you feel that you are effectively assisting the mentee to achieve her goals?
- Do you and your mentee share some common interests and passions? Do you relate to her journey? Do you think it’s a good match?
- What are the challenges and how might these be addressed?
- Is there anything you think you can do to improve or enhance the mentoring experience?
It would also be useful for your mentee to periodically look back at the goals she set and check that they are being met. She might like to do this during a mentoring session.
Is it time to end the relationship?
There are various reasons why a mentoring relationship might end. These include that the specified time period is over, the mentee has achieved what she sought to achieve from the relationship, the relationship is reaching a natural conclusion, or the relationship is not working well for one or both parties. Also, one party may become unavailable due to time constraints or personal issues, or may simply want a break from mentoring. People change and the need for the mentoring relationship will change too.
If the mentoring relationship feels like it is coming to a natural end, this is a perfectly common experience as mentoring relationships are generally intended to be for a limited time. Whatever the reason for the relationship coming to a close, it is important that the relationship is formally concluded and that the process is handled well. If you feel like the relationship is ending, or needs to end, chances are the mentee is feeling the same way. If the mentee doesn’t raise the issue, it might be helpful for you to raise it.
It can be very useful to formally end your mentoring relationship with an ‘exit interview’ or final session. This session provides you both with the opportunity to review the time you have spent together, reflect on and celebrate the mentee’s achievements and acknowledge any challenges. This is an important part of the mentoring process, as it helps both women to assess their involvement in the relationship and can be useful for future mentoring relationships. It’s important that you both be honest, constructive, reflective, and of course, respectful.
The following are some points you might like to discuss during this final session.
Consider the goals set out at the beginning of the relationship, or those identified or redefined along the way. Were these goals met?
- What did your mentee gain, both personally and professionally, during the relationship? What did you gain?
- What were the greatest lessons and achievements?
- Which elements of the relationship did you value the most?
- Were there any challenges that arose during the relationship? How were these addressed?
- Where to from here?
So, now you know a little bit more about being a mentor, if you think you have something to give and would like to be involved, why not go for it!
Being a Mentor (52 KB)
Welcome to Online Mentoring for Women
What is Mentoring?
Why Online Mentoring?
Being a Mentee
Reflective Learning Modules
Values and Strengths
Healthy Life Balance