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Help a Sister Out… Become a Mentor

Posted on the 22 April 2011 by Ncrimaldi @MsCareerGirl

Last week my firm’s newest employee began her employment. During the time that I was in the process of selecting her, I discussed some ideas about the interviewing process. Since then, I have found that now the real work begins.

If you are an entrepreneur who has gotten to the point where you are hiring people to your company, then you understand that there is no greater source of expense than your investment on human capital.  As such, the right person can bring harmony and energy to your team. Conversely, the wrong people can create discord and wreak havoc on your business. But, what if, like me, you pick someone who does not have a proven record of success in your field of expertise?

If you have endeavored to give someone whom you believe to be promising an opportunity it is important to create defined goals with her and undertake a mentoring process to help her obtain the expertise that will help your company succeed.

What does it take to be a mentor? For most people mentoring does not come easy. However, there are key steps to being a good mentor.

How to establish a mentoring relationship

The first step to developing a mentoring relationship is to identify the individual whom you believe needs mentoring. This person, often called a mentee, is actually known as a protégé. I have taken upon myself to “mentor” my newest employee. Now, mentoring does not necessarily require a grand proclamation but it does require that you have an interest in your protégé’s success.

How to mentor

Now that you have identified a protégé, the work begins. The first step is to maintain continuous contact with your protégé.  If your protégé does not work as closely with you as mine does, you will need to make a concerted effort to create a plan to communicate frequently. I recommend doing a combination of online and in-person contact. The online communication will ensure that you have at least weekly contact with your protégé.  The in-person communication will help you and your protégé bond.

Some of the duties of a mentor include serving as a role model, providing support and encouragement and giving assistance to help locate resources when career and educational issues arise. One of the things that I have found beneficial to my protégé is providing reading material. Because my protégé is my employee, I take time every morning (at least at this point) to ask about any questions that have arisen as a result of her reading.

Learn how to follow

As a mentor, your job will be to teach, help grow and impart knowledge.  But one of the most valuable tools in your mentor arsenal will be your keen insight of following.  Listen to the cues that your protégé will provide you and give her the mentoring that she needs, not just the mentoring that you believe she should have.  With a young colleague who is employed by a different firm, I try to schedule monthly, one-on-one opportunities to discuss her development. Although I do provide reading recommendations to my colleague, her area of concentration is very different from mine and her firm’s partners are providing her with the tools that they need in that area.  Based on her cues, I have found that the most important areas of focus for her are successful interaction with her firm’s partners and creating measures for success so that she can track her progress during her first year as a licensed attorney.

Encourage outsourcing

If you, like me, decide to mentor someone who is your employee encourage her to seek outside mentoring as well.  To me, this is critically important for several reasons.  First, as her employer your mentoring relationship will be limited by her desire to put her best foot forward and need to impress you.  This means that there will be questions that she will not want to ask, mistakes that she will not want to admit and ideas that she will not want to explore with you.  However, as her mentor you will want to ensure that she can develop as much as possible because that is how you will be guaranteed a truly excellent employee.

Seek mentoring opportunities

Finally, remember that learning never ends.  In order to become a better mentor it does not hurt to continue your learning process.  Seek a mentor in your field that will help you in your continued growth.  If you need to do so, contact local associations dedicated to your field of work; often, they have formal mentoring programs and can provide you with a mentor.  The most important part, enjoy the mentoring process.  Whether you are helping someone to grow or are yourself the beneficiary of a mentor’s advice, enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities that it can provide.  Growth is a necessary part of career development and it will make a difference in your appreciation for your chosen career.

Have you ever mentored someone?  Ever been the mentee? What worked and didn’t work for you?

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