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How to be a good Mentor

matthewrungwe profile image Matthew Rungwe Originally published at matthewrungwe.hashnode.dev Updated on ・9 min read

Introduction

Everyone has the ability to teach the next person something. Okay then Matthew, if everyone can teach, why doesn't everyone do it? There is no one answer to this question. However, I believe that to be able to teach it has to come from the heart because the knowledge alone won't be enough.

In this article, I will try to go in detail on a few tips that can help you become a good Mentor. This article is also not just for those who have been assigned a mentee, or need to take up a mentoring role but rather a challenge to everyone.

"The world needs to learn from you and don't be afraid to take up the torch and shine it on someone's path."

Table of Contents

  1. Change your mind-set
  2. What is a Mentor
  3. Get to know your mentee, their goals and expectations
  4. Plan your sessions
  5. Show up and be present
  6. Customise the experience for your mentee
  7. Deliver honest feedback
  8. Be willing to learn
  9. Go the extra mile
  10. Become a life coach
  11. Let your mentee pick up their torch
  12. Lead by example
  13. Qualities of a mentor
  14. To wrap up

Change your mind-set

Whenever we hear the word mentor we immediately assume that this is someone who has some amazing level of experience or someone who is going to be constantly telling the mentee what to do and how to do it. I don't believe so now and in this article we will see how a mentor can contribute even when they don't know much about the subject.

What is a Mentor?

For starters, let's ask ourselves, what is a mentor? "A mentor is an individual who acts as an advisor or coach for a less experienced or advanced mentee, providing expertise and professional knowledge from a more experienced perspective." by Indeed.

A mentor can be anyone who is at a level that the mentee wants to get to. I also think that both of you, mentor and mentee are going to be constantly learning from each other, this allows to keep an open mind and remove the sense of dependency.

Mentor:

  • You will constantly need to find different ways to explain a particular concept.
  • You will find yourself reading books or taking courses with the intent to understand more so you can pass it down to someone.
  • You are not the only one who needs to put in 100% of the work or be the source of information. Inspire the mentee to be independent so they can explore their own way of understanding too.

Get to know your mentee, their goals and expectations

Before you start having any official sessions with your mentee, have your first meet-up over coffee, lunch or a video call. Chances are the mentee would be scared about how everything will go, they will have questions and they just need to know you.

This will be your chance to break the ice:

  • Talk about who you are and how you want to help,
  • Allow the mentee to ask questions,
  • In turn, you can ask questions to better understand how you can help or have a better understanding of what you can do. Have a small questionnaire because it will help you to plan future lessons.
  • Have a casual conversation about your backgrounds and how you both came to be in the same environment.
  • Discuss the goals your mentee has so you may set dates and deadlines you are working towards.

This time allows you build respect and trust. By the end you should also have an idea of where you are headed. The goal is important because it will help in the planning.

"Listen more and speak less."

Plan your sessions

After you have had a talk about how you can help each other, quickly get down to planning. Chance are, you and your mentee have other commitments. This can include family, work, studies or hobbies. You need to take some time to figure out how you will make it work.

Agree on tools that you will use to communicate, how many physical or virtual meetups that you will need. Plan towards your goals and your expectations. Block your time by setting reminders on your calenders.

Show up and be present

Showing up for a session is half of the battle. You need to be:

  • proactive,
  • engaged,
  • attentive,
  • positive and
  • awake.

This should go without say, be prepared before your sessions or at least have a understanding of what the session is all about. As much a you will be letting the mentee do most of the work, it is only fair to be ready to answer the questions they might have.

If it's possible to switch off some distraction during your sessions, please do. This will not just help you stay focused but it will make the mentee feel special and valued because despite your busy schedule you have found time to prioritize them.

Your attitude towards your sessions greatly influences how your mentee performs.

Customise the experience for your mentee

Everyone has a different way of learning, as a mentor it your duty to also understand the unique way the mentee learns. Unfortunately, when it comes to leaning, one size does not fit all. There will be a lot of strategies to carry over but most of them need to be customised to suit your mentee.

So, one has to find comfort in the fact that the mentee is not them because no two people are the same. You are there to shine the light on most of the things they want to do although they might chose different paths. As a mentor you need to know when to respect and challenge their difference.

Learn to anticipate your mentee, sometimes they might be shy to ask something and you need to know how to read their speech and body language. Sometimes, you also need ask questions that your mentee may not have asked because it would be important if they did.

Deliver honest feedback

No one knows everything, the only way anyone can grow is if the people that love them also help by being honest about what they do. As a mentor, your mentee will depend on the feedback that you provide them. Be honest about their performance, don't be afraid to tell them what they did right and what they did wrong so changes can be made accordingly.

Offer constructive criticism where it is needed or a compliment when it has been earned. As much as you are pushing your mentee, don't push them away at the same time.

Hold each other accountable to the goals, expectations and the targets that you have set. If research or a project has to be done after a certain period, remind each other to abide to that deadline.

Be willing to learn

Be willing to up-skill or learn new skills. Learning as Developers has become part of our day to day lives. This idea holds through mentoring too as much as it is for our careers. This also holds for people in other industries too.

Don't depend solely on your experience and knowledge but be willing to take up classes, books or blogs that will help you offer the best experience to your mentee. Not doing this will deprive them. Learn alongside your mentee, you will be surprised at how much you might not have known or be impressed by the conventions that your mentee resorts to to solve problems.

Take the time to learn and research what you do not know or what you have forgotten if it's going to be crucial for your mentee and your goal.

Go the extra mile

Don't be afraid to invest in your mentee. Once you agree to the responsibility of taking on a mentee, the least you can do is offer everything that you can. It is a painful feeling of seeing you mentee struggle knowing that you could have done something to make their experience better.

There are so many ways you can go the extra mile like:

  • Picking up tailored resources for them where you can.
  • Schedule special events in recognition of the effort that has been made and the time that has been spent.
  • Support them with opportunities and referrals so the may grow.
  • Help them with professional networking.

Become a life coach

Sometimes you will find yourself doing more than just coaching but offering advice about other aspects of life: finances, relationships, health and even religion. We all know that life can be challenging and most of the time the reason we want to make changes in our life is beyond our desires but because of the circumstances in our lives that push us out of our comfort zone.

  • Help your mentee to navigate the balance between work life and social life.
  • Offer valuable, realistic and relevant advice.
  • Motivate and inspire your mentee to look beyond the life around them but what they can do and contribute.
  • Nature and inspire their decisions. Help them to become a better form of themselves and help them understand that their uniqueness is important.

Let your mentee pick up their torch

Remember, it's all about the mentee. Let them carve their own path and you be there to understand that path and guide them through it.

Your opinion and experience are very important, that's why you are here in the first place but it shouldn't take precedence over theirs. A simple reason is that, if something is more personal and dear to the mentee, they will see it through. If your mentee feels like a decision has been brushed onto them, they will eventually lose interest or be discouraged because they won't see the point of continuing.

Know when to take the long pause. Wait and let your mentee struggle through something or through finding a solution before you pitch in. It is through the hardships of learning that we can develop a solution that we can remember.

Don't be too far ahead and don't be too far behind either, be there, be active and be present.

Lead by example

Yes! Practice what you preach. Being a mentor is a lot of things and one of them it to be a leader. Be willing to take the time to show how something is done rather than just saying it. Allow your experience and knowledge speak for themselves.

Qualities of a mentor

This article began with the assumption that you already have the qualities to become a mentor. We can quickly discuss a few to give you confidence and confirmation that this is for you.

  • Being trust worthy: People are going to trust you with their time, their personal life, their ideas and their opinions. A lot of this will be disclosed in confidentiality because they will trust that you won't share this with others. You need to be someone who is trust worth.

  • Have expertise and experience on the subject: As much as you can do without expert knowledge in the subject, you need to have considerable experience with the subject to be able to teach the other person.

  • Have good time management: This is a skill that is crucial to have. Chances are that you are going to have a lot on your plate and you need to know how to navigate through it all or at least try. This is a good skill to impart on your mentee.

  • Have diverse perspectives: Experiment with different strategies so you can be able to tell what methods to immediately resort to in different cases.

  • Be able to adapt: You will find yourself in so many different situations and with people with different personalities. Be able to adapt and have a compatible personality. This will open up a lot of opportunities for you.

  • You need to love your work: Of course, right? Passion speaks for itself. It really helps if you love what you do because you will build tolerance, acceptance, humility and care in and towards your work.

To wrap up

In this are article we explored a few different ways that can help you make a stand as a good mentor. Mentoring is not just a question of whether you have the knowledge and the experience but a question of how you are going share the knowledge and the experience.

As a mentor, your listening, patience, tolerance, morality, attention and emotional growth will also be challenged. You are going to live in so many people's shoes and still find a way to make it work.

For me, despite all this work to become a mentor I wouldn't substitute the feeling you get when you see a smile on the face of your mentee after they have accomplished something or understood a concept that was seemingly impossible. That sense of gratitude they will have is what most mentors will be after and that feeling far out weighs the challenges, the late hours preparing, the time spent and the risks taken.

Still here? Thank you. You may leave a comment about your thoughts about this article.

This article was originally published at matthewrungwe.hashnode.dev

Discussion (1)

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Matthew Rungwe Author • Edited

You're welcome hey.

About the links, I just meant that it would be safe if external links open in their own tab so the user does not need to user the browser back button to navigate back to your blog.

Example
Link loading on same tab

  • Notion <a href="https://notion.so"></a>

Link loading on different tab

Notion

<a href="https://notion.so" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Notion</a>