I want to be candid with you about my experiences as a mentor. I have mentored steadily in some capacity since I started working in industry. Mentoring caused complex emotions for me in the beginning. I love helping people and I took on the responsibility knowing that giving anything less than 100% would be difficult for me. I put so much pressure on myself. I was nervous.
If you have a mentor, you may also be nervous about your interactions with them. I remember fearing that I was wasting my mentors' time. I feared that their offers to answer any questions or meet up in the future were only courtesies. Now, as a mentor, I know that when I offer my time to someone, I mean it. I love when someone reaches out after I offer help.
If I enthusiastically tell you to email me anytime and give you my card, please know that I have already decided that you are an intelligent person with important things to say and I am incredibly interested in hearing more from you.
I see incredible potential in you. I think you are special. I want to see you succeed. You have made a great impression on me. Please do not forget this!
If you are a new mentor, you should remind yourself that your mentee is likely incredibly nervous because they think you're a cool person. Recently, I met a wonderful and smart young person who as soon as they met me expressed how awesome they think I am because I work at [cool place]. I was so struck by the idea that someone looks up to me for being at a job that they would like to be at that I froze for a few seconds. I instantly saw the worry in their face from my lack of response. I remembered how inspiring/intimidating it was for me to meet engineers working in industry. As a mentor, cherish the moments your mentee expresses genuine emotion whether happiness, sadness, fear, or anger. It is difficult to be honest with people we respect for fear that we may come off as inappropriate or unprofessional. Remember to practice empathy! If your mentee expresses something that throws you off and you don't know what to say, think back to when you were in a similar position as your mentee and share some tidbit about what that was like for you. That's usually enough to comfort your mentee and let them know they haven't said something egregious.
Though I still get anxious from time to time, these feelings have mostly decreased in intensity as I have come to understand the dynamics of mentoring relationships more.
You'll get there too! Stay honest with yourself throughout the process, validate your feelings, and know that you'll get better at this thing. The lessons you'll learn and the relationships you'll build by sticking with it are truly worth it.
A Very Eager Mentor
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