How to Be a Better Mentor at Work

As a mentor, you have a real opportunity to help a newer employee boost his or her skills, build confidence, and learn the ropes at the company you know inside and out. But if you really want to help your protege excel, you should be prepared to go above and beyond the typical mentor's call of duty. Here's how.

1. Make yourself available

If you're part of a mentoring program at work, you probably have some sort of guidelines in place for meeting with your mentee on an ongoing basis. And while those scheduled meetings might be helpful in their own right, you'll better serve your protege by making yourself available on the fly. This way, if the person you're mentoring encounters a hiccup, he or she will feel comfortable reaching out for advice on how to navigate it.

2. Set clear, achievable goals

Chances are, your mentee will want direction, especially if he or she is new to the company or industry. To that end, you can help by establishing reasonable goals for your protege to strive for, and only adding additional goals once your mentee's initial goals are achieved. This will help the person you're mentoring avoid getting overwhelmed, or taking on too much at once.

3. Don't hesitate to offer criticism constructive

As a seasoned worker, you might pick up on patterns or mistakes that cause your protege to shoot him or herself in the foot. You also might be inclined to keep those observations to yourself for fear of offending or alienating your mentee. Don't. The person you're mentoring can't learn from you if you aren't honest, so don't hesitate to share your thoughts openly.

At the same time, aim to keep your language as positive and constructive as possible. For example, rather than say, "I've noticed you tend to rush through your data reports and miss out on key points in the process," try this: "There are some interesting patterns hidden inside this data. Don't hesitate to spend more time combing through it to pull out additional findings."

4. Share your personal stories

Maybe your protege is struggling with a particular task or assignment. Or maybe he or she is just having a hard time adjusting to office life. No matter the case, think back to when you were in that person's shoes, and try to remember what it was like to be new and clueless. Then, share those experiences with your mentee so that he or she takes comfort in the fact that you were eventually able to overcome those obstacles.

5. Be open to learning new things yourself

Your job as a mentor is to guide someone else, but that doesn't mean you can't learn a thing or two from someone new. In fact, you should make it clear that you're gaining valuable knowledge from the relationship at play, because your mentee, in turn, will probably gain more confidence and feel better about the job he or she is doing.

6. Ask for feedback

Maybe there's something your mentee wishes you were doing that, well, you aren't. He or she might be too timid to speak up, which is why it's important to request feedback. Maybe your protege wants more frequent check-ins, or the option to run reports by you before submitting them to his or her boss. It never hurts to find out what gaps your mentee is looking for you to help fill, so make it clear that you're open to ideas.

If you're going to volunteer as a mentor, you might as well do the best job possible. These ideas will help you excel as a mentor, which will not only help your mentee but also bring you the personal satisfaction you deserve.

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