Mentorships come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. However, there are some universal best practices that are important to keep in mind when beginning a mentorship journey. These tips can help reinforce growth, learning, and support as you move forward in an exciting new relationship.
1. Define Expectations
It's important to get clear on your expectations at the beginning (and even before) your mentorship experience. Even if you don't end up where you expected in the end, having a clear frame of reference from the start will help you to better understand your journey as your professional and creative life evolves. Additionally, be sure to share your boundaries with your partner to make sure that all goals and activities are approached respectfully.
2. Share About Yourself, More Than Professionally
You may be seeking career advice from your mentor, and you may want to appear professional when advising your mentee. However, our success is based on more than our job performance, and it has a personal history. The more you are willing to share about your interests, hobbies, families, experiences, and failures, the more relatable your experience will be.
3. Stay Positive and Generative
Real life happens while we are busy making plans, and sometimes the two do not align. One or both participants of a mentorship may find themselves in a rut at some point during the partnership. Think of how you can support your partner through these tough times, and think about how you can ask for support if things get rough. It may mean taking a break and missing a mentorship session. It may also mean having an extra one. Use your mentorship experience as a support to your challenges rather than a block.
4. Be Consistent
Consistency is at the foundation of a successful mentorship relationship. Not only does it structurally support the work you do with your mentor, it signals that there is a commitment and dedication between you and your partner. It is best to establish a schedule at the beginning of your work to make this as easy as possible.
5. Mix Things Up
In contrast to consistency, we know that variety is the spice of life. Do something different! Meet outside in a park for a meeting if the weather is fair. Cook a meal together and see what comes up over an organic conversation. Talk about a topic that is off the beaten path to breath some new life into your mentorship. Even small changes can provide big insights that can support both your goals and your relationship.
6. Give Feedback
Regular feedback will not only keep your mentorship goals on track but will support you in tweaking your approaches for a better outcome. Feedback can happen between the mentor and the mentee, and it can also happen individually as a self-reflection. Taking notes on your feedback can also be helpful for revisiting when you are forming new goals.
Celebration has its place in every single mentorship meeting. However, make sure to at least do it when major milestones are reached. This can be as simple as words of encouragement and praise and as extravagant as a night on the town. How you celebrate in your mentorship depends on your personalities and interests and is best established in the initial planning phase of a mentorship.
8. Bring Your Communities Together
It can bring meaning and value to a mentorship when newtorking occurs. This could involve making professional connections, meeting family members, or engaging with likeminded groups and clubs. This can help a mentorship flourish by providing additional forms of support and taking pressure off of the pairing to do all of the goal-achieving work.
9. Share Opportunities
In addition to sharing community, it can be quite helpful to share professional opportunities. You may expect that the mentor is the main source of opportunities in this arrangement. However, it can create a very valuable and sustainable relationship when a mentee shares opportunities with their mentor. By working together and combining resources, both individuals can grow during the mentorship.
10. Be Forward Thinking
What happens after your mentorship? Was it meant to be a certain length of time, or is it a more spontaneous arrangement? While you don't have to have the future of your mentorship completely figured out, it can be helpful to take a little time to think about it and ask yourself what you may want moving forward. For even more interesting results and a better guarantee for a long-term partnership, discuss this with your pairing and keep each other up to date on what the future entails. This can lead to friendships, extended mentorships, and even collaborations.
These ten tips are great starting points for orienting your mentorship. However, they are by no means an ending point. Ultimately, we are the authorities of our relationships with others, and mentorships provide us with the accountability needed to grow good connections into exceptional ones. While you may be following a rulebook to expand in your professional life today, you may be the one writing it in your next mentorship relationship. The world looks forward to hearing what you learn and learning from you next.