I think being a mentor is one of the most rewarding things one can do. I remember being a young product designer latching onto a mentor who inspired me, taught me the art and techniques of creativity, and changed my life path for the better.
Because of this, I’ve spent personal time over the years helping younger developers, designers, and other creatives find their feet, get direction, and have been in awe at some of the things they’ve created, designed, and built.
Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned along the way that I believe can make you a better mentor.
Be accessible. Make sure your mentee can get hold of you. Spend time with them and be a good listener / sounding board. Ask them questions to prompt new lines of thought. Share your world with them. Introduce them to people that could help the future them. A good mentee is hungry to know everything. So allow them the time to get that.
Be honest. Provide high quality and constructive feedback and, above all, be honest, candid, and non-judgemental. Remember the “tell them something positive, something negative, and something positive” order of feedback to soften criticism. It’s good to practice this so that your mentee is more prepared, but be gentle.
Be surprised. Even though you have way more experience and knowledge, allow yourself to be surprised. Value diversity in perspectives. Give guidance, don’t tell; show and suggest.
Be prepared. Have a plan. Have a mentee for a set period of time. Agree learning and skill outcomes that you want your mentee to acquire over that time. Make them achievable. But don’t be too rigid; allow for flexibility and change.
There are so many different approaches to being a good mentor: these are the ones that have worked for me. I’d love to hear how you approach being a mentor or if there’s anything else you’d add to the above. You can reach me at email@example.com.
For advice on finding a mentor and preparing as a mentee check out the UK careers service.