Each time I visit Florida, I comment on the number of “old people.” They are everywhere, which causes traffic to be constant at any time of the day because they aren’t working like the rest of us.
Then it dawned on me that I’m getting much closer to the definition of “old people.” It won’t be many more years until I’m in the category of retired.
But I’m not ready. I still have so much more to give and more than I want and should give to those behind me. I bet a large percentage of people who are at retirement age also feel they have so much more to give.
This started me thinking that I still have time to give before I hit that magical age. And mentoring is the way to do it! I’ve had many mentors along the way, and I want to pay it forward because of the positive impact mentoring had on me.
I want to be a mentor. I want to support, encourage, and inspire the next generation of workers to survive in their chosen profession and thrive! The benefits to me and the mentee are well worth the time and effort we both put forward.
According to a study by CNBC, 90 percent of workers who have a mentor report being happy in their job. Employees involved in mentoring programs have a 50% higher retention rate than those not involved in mentoring (MentorcliQ). Employees involved in mentoring are promoted five times more often than those not involved in mentoring. (Sun Microsystems).
These benefits and more are why over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. Do you have a program? Do you want to be a mentor or be mentored?
It takes two to mentor. Not only do I need to find someone who wants to hear what I have to say, but I also need to be willing to say it. We both need to be willing to communicate, listen, share, learn, and teach one another.
Whatever side of the mentoring coin you are on, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that it is a success for you both.
- Make sure it doesn’t become social. One of the challenges of virtually every mentor relationship I’ve had is that we stray away from talking about the issues and wander into “friend” territory, where we spend too much time discussing non-work issues.
We need to be friendly, and friendship naturally comes from these informal partnerships. However, ensure that you have a list of things you want to discuss (an agenda, perhaps) instead of sitting over coffee and socializing.
You should set agendas, time frames, and joint goals, and you both bring a list of great questions to ask one another when you meet.
- Set clear expectations at the beginning. If you are the mentee, you may have very specific areas of the job that you are looking for advice and guidance on. You might not want your mentor to spend all the time speaking about their experiences, allowing them to decide the areas of advice and guidance. You need to identify what it is you want to know. Do you have specific questions you need answers to, or do you want to learn from the lessons they want to share with you?
If you are the mentor, you will need to ensure that you are meeting the needs of a mentee. Perhaps your experiences and lessons learned need to be more relevant to your mentee. Perhaps what you think is important for them is not what they need from you. Your mentee may want to ask you very specific situational questions. You want both of you to have clear expectations of what each other needs from the relationship.
- Create a routine to connect. It could be for weekly coffee, for a longer session less frequently. Since you are creating a formalized mentor/mentee program, you need to formalize when and where you meet so that it doesn’t fall victim to not having enough time. Commitment is an essential component of a successful mentoring relationship
Often mentoring relationships are created informally. You meet someone at a work event or meet them for coffee/lunch one day. You both benefit from this new mentoring relationship, but since it happened accidentally, it feels “weird” to put it into a schedule.
Put it into a schedule regardless. If you don’t, you will feel like you are infringing on the other’s time and potentially feel like you are meeting for your benefit with no benefit to them. If you both agree to a schedule, no one feels like they are taking advantage or overstepping. We need to formalize this mentoring relationship even if it started informally.
- Agree on honesty. When you spend time with someone who has been in your shoes, do you want your ego stroked, or do you want to learn from them? Agree that your mentor will be professional, but they don’t need to sugarcoat things either. Permit them to tell you when they see you do something that needs to be adjusted or when you’ve made a mistake. Agree on constructive criticism as the honest feedback you are looking for.
However, your mentor shouldn’t be telling you “What to do” and instead work with you to figure out what you should do. It is a mentor, not a parent.
If you are the mentor, tell the true stories, not how you hoped you handled the situation. Your mentee will learn from your mistakes if you are honest about them. If all you share is your glory stories, you may intimidate your mentee, as they will focus only on their mistakes and your glory. They won’t know you learned the hard way many times, too, and feel they can’t measure up to your success.
- Set an end time to your agreement. If you start your mentoring relationship, give it a review date. You can start with a six-month agreement. At the end of the agreement period, you can agree to end the formalized mentoring partnership and continue on a friendship or extend the mentoring partnership if you still have much to share and learn.
Be sure to put a date on it. It gives you an easy way to wish the other good luck and not have it end awkwardly. If you don’t have an ending date, it will become uncomfortable and feel like a duty rather than a privilege.
I know I’m getting older, and I’m sure I will very soon qualify as the “old lady” in the room. Regardless of my age, I have much to learn and share.
I need someone to show me how to slow down and retire. The good news is that I have a few friends who have already started the process, so I know they can mentor me when it is my time.
I also still have a lot to share, and fortunately for me, many people want to learn from my experiences. The good news is that I have the willingness and desire to share it with those that want to hear it.
This double whammy allows me to be both the mentor and the mentee. I only see great learnings in my future.
Do you want to give or receive? Go looking for your match so you can have all the benefits of mentoring too.
This article originally appeared on CSNM.ca – for members only.