How to Become a Mentor

This is a guest post written by Kathie Elliott, Sr. HR Professional.

Having a mentor can make a big difference in someone’s career. You may want to consider becoming a mentor if you have experiences and skills to offer. Even if you are early in your career or new to your position, you still have knowledge to share.  Mentorships take many forms, including mentoring up (such as sharing technical or emerging best practices with more experienced employees), peer mentoring (such as onboarding a new teammate), or mentoring a returning or new professional (such as helping a colleague who experienced a break in their career). Many could benefit from your experience, especially at MSU where we work with student employees, emerging faculty and/or researchers, or employees moving between administrative and academic positions.

If you are ready to mentor, consider:

  • Your area(s) of expertise –
    • Distinguish between skills you have used in the past (verify their current applicability today), and those you are confident still represent best practices.
  • What you would like to experience or learn during the mentorship.
  • How much time you can commit, and for what period.
  • How many mentees you would like to work with (individually, or as a group).
  • Whether you already have someone in mind and, if so, how to approach them.
  • Your preferred meeting format (e.g., networking event, activity, shared learning experience, coffee, etc.).
  • How much structure you would like (e.g., a mentorship developed over occasional calls and meetings, a just-in-time mentorship where every contact has a specific and time-sensitive goal, or a highly structured mentorship with a formal arrangement under very specific perimeters ).

No matter your preferences, there are steps to take to be ready when an opportunity arises:

  1. Identify your areas of expertise and ask others for feedback, if necessary.
  2. Model continuous learning. Upgrade your skills and become familiar with different learning styles.
  3. Consider your communication style and how that may help or impede a mentorship.  Are you comfortable sharing your experiences and emotions even though they may be somewhat embarrassing? If not, begin pushing yourself beyond your comfort level so you are able to fully share your experiences and their impact on you professionally and personally.
  4. If you have work habits or professional relationships that could be improved, address them now so you are at your best.
  5. Practice giving feedback and offering advice. Do you sense that, despite your sincere desire to help others, your efforts are misinterpreted? Seek out someone you admire for their people skills and allow them to mentor you in the art of communicating to influence. Consider taking a class such as Crucial Conversations, or reviewing online resources in elevateU.

Mentoring should always involve willing and interested parties with an expectation of discretion, and unrelated to the employee’s work status or position. Those who may influence an employee’s position or wages should not serve as a mentor to that employee.

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in these previously published articles about mentorship:

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