Mentoring Relationships for a Lifetime

Be Someone Who MattersOver the last few weeks, the focus for Coffee Lunch Coffee has been on January’s National Mentoring Month.  We’ve covered stories about mentees and their mentors, we’ve talked about the way mentors and mentees interact with one another and why they choose to connect and we’ve considered the impact mentors can have on their mentees’ lives.  Today, as National Mentoring Month comes to a close, I want to ensure both mentors and mentees have clear direction on how to enter a mentoring relationship.

Recently, I had the privilege to sit in on two webinars hosted by my alma mater, Smith College.  The speaker, Colleen DelVecchio, Director for Alumnae Engagement at the College, shared her insights on both “How to Find a Mentor” and “How to Be a Mentor.”

In both sessions, she started with these prescient reminders:

  1. A mentor is a person with more experience than you who offers guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point of view;
  2. If you are open to the notion of mentoring, you will have many mentors/mentees over your lifetime;
  3. Mentoring relationships may change depending on career level, career path and the specific area of counseling on which the relationship is based; and
  4. Sometimes, mentoring relationships run their course and should end.

Now, you may be asking yourself who to choose either as a mentor or to mentor.  There are many ways to approach this; Colleen’s recommendations were focused on career stage:

Mentee Career Stage 1:  Starting out in a career professionally
Mentor Career Stage 1:  Someone who was where the mentee currently is about 5 years ago who can help the mentee develop skills to move up professionally.

Mentee Career Stage 2:  First promotion/mid-career
Mentor Career Stage 2:  Someone who has moved to upper management and can show the mentee possible career paths.  This type of mentor shares insight on what the mentee needs to be successful while also helping to identify potential derailers.  Whatever the case, the mentor is direct, honest and levels with his/her mentee.

Mentee Career Stage 3:  Upper management/C-Level
Mentor Career Stage 3:  This mentor serves as a critical “devil’s advocate;” he/she will not simply say “yes” to the mentee.  This is the level at which it is most important to have a mentor, but it is the least likely time when people have mentors.

Taking it a step further, Colleen suggested we choose people we admire and respect, who have a good track record and credibility, high standards and values and achievements that impress you.  In all cases, it is important to be able to articulate what they have to offer and that they agree with you!  Furthermore, great mentors enjoy challenges and know how to challenge their mentees and help them focus on their goals.  Finally, near and dear to my own heart, she indicated that strong mentors have solid networks of influencers and are willing to make connections for their mentees.  She said professional associations/conferences, alumni/alumnae groups, LinkedIn groups and national mentoring organizations can be also fertile ground to establish these connections.

Some of the most meaningful advice I took away from the webinars was this:

  • Mentoring is a two-way street that can be life changing for all parties;
  • Mentoring enhances the skills of mentor and mentee alike; and
  • Finding someone you believe in on either side of the relationship can forge a bond for a lifetime.

Grateful to Colleen for sharing her wisdom.  Wishing each of you strong mentoring relationships now and always!  Happy National Mentoring Month!

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