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Meaningful Mentorships: Tips for Making the Most of Career-Enhancing Relationships

Meaningful Mentorships: Tips for Making the Most of Career-Enhancing Relationships
Posted By: Reggie Culpepper on June 02, 2022

Content By:
Wendy E. John
Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Fidelity Investments

If you are like me, you can still remember your first mentor and how important that relationship was. Mine was a high school math teacher named Ms. Prince, who looked beyond my talents as a student to see me as a whole person and was able to fashion her keen perceptions into guidance that shaped my career path and changed my life. I can still picture the manila folder she handed me with information about becoming an actuarial business professional. As so many business leaders feel, I’m deeply grateful to her and other mentors I’ve had and I am committed to paying that forward.

The rich traditions of mentors, allies and sponsors are among the most wonderful aspects of the business world. These rewarding relationships contribute to the foundations of innovation, growth, and sustained success for many organizations. But the past two pandemic years, when so many people worked remotely, put a strain on networking and mentoring culture—strong relationships got stronger, weak ones got weaker, and it was difficult to forge new bonds.

The good news? There are intentional steps mentees and mentors can take—and they’re effective regardless of work setting. Here are some ways to help reestablish and strengthen these vital connections:

Mentees, take initiative: In addition to doing great work—and making sure your managers and mentors know about it—show curiosity about tasks and paths that go beyond the job descriptions. Be open about the desire to learn, grow, and advance. Relationships are harder to forge via video, so when working remotely be fully present: Think about the signals you are sending to potential mentors from “within your frame” on the video screen. And when a potential mentor surfaces, don’t be shy about asking how to start a relationship. Also, be open about your needs, give your mentor a clear view of your expectations and aspirations. Ask questions! More importantly learn and have fun. A mentee/mentor relationship should be a mutually engaging and fruitful experience.

Cast a wide net: Unlike a sponsor, who needs to know firsthand the quality of someone’s work in a company before advocating for them, a mentor doesn’t always have to be a senior leader or even someone at work. Early in my career, I got involved in the International Association of Black Actuaries. The connections and lessons I gathered from its members helped me tremendously. Even though they weren’t colleagues working at the same company, their wisdom was very relevant to my career and what I wanted to achieve.

Use your time well: Be punctual, enthusiastic, open-minded, and ask questions. Come to each meeting with an agenda. Your mentor won’t be able to provide much feedback or advice if you don’t have a purpose or goals. Some mentorships become lifelong, wide-ranging friendships, but it’s okay if the initial focus is narrower—achieving a certain skill set, for example. Conversations should be structured around specific goals so that they are productive for both participants. Also, be open to constructive criticism, don’t be defensive when your mentor is trying to offer guidance and direction

Mentors, be more than a coach: Giving feedback and helping others improve performance is vital, but there’s more to mentoring than just sharing experiences and giving advice. Mentoring is about recognizing potential, nurturing it and setting the stage for intrinsic and ongoing growth. Talented associates want leaders who not only help them complete tasks, but also engage in big-picture conversations, helping them to see opportunities ahead, prepare for them and seize them. And, with so many people rethinking their priorities for life and career, the stakes are high. If mentees don’t feel truly supported and “seen” as I did by Ms. Prince and other mentors who supported my career at Fidelity, it may prompt them to look for another organization that offers more support to their employees.

Invest in the “non-deliverables”: In an era where one video call after another adds tasks to an employee’s plate, good mentors will use the one-on-one time to discuss the person, not just the work. Whether it’s through big-picture, long-term brainstorming or just checking in and showing empathy for what the mentee is grappling with or envisioning ahead, mentees need to know that they are seen and valued as full human beings.

Be intuitive: Good mentors see not just what a person is good at, but they also inspire confidence in their mentees to tackle challenging goals and milestones. It’s the mentor’s job to challenge the expectations of mentees and help them discover options they have not yet seen themselves, share their experiences and give advice. Early in my career one of my key mentors did just that. He hired me and helped me do well in that role, but more importantly, he encouraged me to take risks I hadn’t considered before.

Though the pandemic made it trickier to initiate and sustain relationships between mentors and mentees, they’re as valuable as ever for individuals and organizations alike. With so much riding on these relationships, how can we make them more meaningful? Just as it takes two to tango, mentorships thrive when both individuals are fully engaged and committed.





Original Article published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/meaningful-...
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