Being a mentor is a rewarding experience. Not only do you provide value to the person you’re mentoring, but you’re getting new skills as well as the gratifying feeling of making a difference in someone’s life. Have you ever wondered how to become a mentor?
Being a mentor can mean a lot of different things: being a trusted adviser, teaching someone a new skill, guiding them through a process and offering moral support and encouragement when needed. A mentor takes on a lot of different roles during the mentoring relationship.
But above all, a good mentor has to recognize what their mentee needs in any given situation and adjust their role accordingly.
As rewarding as mentoring is, it can also be a little intimidating. That’s why in this article we’ll explore what it means to be a mentor, why it’s a valuable experience for entrepreneurs and small business owners and outline the path you need to follow to become a mentor.
We’ll also explore different types of mentoring and where to find opportunities to become a mentor. Let’s dive in!
What is a mentor?
According to Merriam-Webster, a mentor is:
“A: a trusted counselor or guide
B: tutor, coach”
In other words, a mentor is an experienced person providing guidance to a less experienced person. The mentor can be older but they can also be younger than the mentee.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs are finding it increasingly important to become a mentor or find a mentor.
As a mentor, you have the unique opportunity to guide someone towards a successful business idea and encourage others to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey.
Mentoring also teaches you important leadership skills such as compassion, motivation, support and more. Honing these skills makes you a better leader and a better business owner who can make important business decisions more easily.
Of course, we can’t forget the benefits that your mentees receive as well.
Let’s face it, owning and running a business is not for the faint of heart. On top of that, entrepreneurship can often feel lonely.
As such, it’s not uncommon for people who embark on their entrepreneurial journey to give up and go back to being an employee.
But with a mentor in their corner to give them advice and support them, giving up on that dream doesn’t have to happen.
When you take that into consideration, it’s easy to understand why being a mentor is a valuable experience.
Mentor and mentee relationship
As mentioned earlier, a mentor can take a lot of different roles during the mentorship relationship.
Being a mentor involves working with a person one-on-one to share valuable information that will help your mentee grow and evolve in a particular area. You should establish goals mutually and come up with a plan to work on those goals.
However, you also have to know when support and encouragement is more needed than teaching. You must have empathy and be able to understand how your mentee is doing on a daily basis.
As such, you need to be ready to embrace multiple roles as an adviser, counselor, therapist, and teacher and be able to seamlessly transition between those roles based on your mentee’s needs.
It’s also worth mentioning that as you begin each new mentorship, you should set ground rules and expectations.
This will make your mentee more comfortable with you and let them know what’s expected of them.
It will also help you establish boundaries and a contact schedule you both can respect.
How to become a mentor: Develop these crucial skills
Now that we’ve covered what a mentor is and what a mentor/mentee relationship looks like, let’s talk about crucial skills you’ll need to hone if you want to become an outstanding mentor.
Sincere desire to guide someone
The most important thing to remember is that to be a successful mentor, you need to have a sincere desire to guide someone.
Being a mentor is a highly personal experience which means your mentorship relationship will sometimes encounter challenges.
Having a sincere desire to help them and being passionate about the area you’re mentoring them will help you push through the challenging times and guide your mentee in the right direction.
As a mentor, you have to listen to your mentee. This will allow you to navigate the relationship more successfully and understand how you can best help your mentee on any given day.
For example, if they’ve just suffered a personal loss, you’ll be able to understand that your mentee needs your support instead of a business lesson.
It goes without saying that you need to dedicate time to your mentoring duties. After all, what good is having a mentor if you’re never around for your mentee to learn from you?
Ability to share knowledge, expertise skills
Mentorship can be described as the transfer of knowledge from one person to the other.
To be a successful mentor, you need to be able to share your knowledge, expertise and skills in such a way that your mentee can easily understand, implement and adapt them to their own situation.
Ability to motivate
Sometimes, your mentee will not be motivated to apply the knowledge they’ve gained, whether it’s for personal or other reasons. When such a time arises your job is to motivate them to keep going. Point out how far they’ve come, celebrate the little achievements and remind them why they’ve started working with you in the first place.
While it’s true that you need to be observant and understand what role to assume with your mentee on any given day, it’s also true that you need to understand their inner motivations.
For example, your mentee might be interested in getting a promotion and climbing the corporate ladder.
Directly related to the example above is the ability to guide them to the right course of action.
If your mentee doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlight or leading a team then it is your job to point out that working towards a promotion in a leadership role wouldn’t be the best choice. You can then work with them to explore alternative options.
Another important skill to have in your toolbox as a mentor is the ability to be a positive influence on your mentee.
As such, you need to practice what you preach and show them what happens when they apply what they have learned from you.
In some cases, your mentee might come up with an idea of their own — a strategy they’d like to implement or test. Resist the urge to reject the idea and instead use your knowledge to provide your unique take on it.
Let them decide which course to take and remain in their corner, even if they decide against your advice.
Offering solicited advice
There might be times when your mentee turns to you for advice about something that’s not directly related to your area of mentoring. This is the perfect opportunity to give them advice based on your experience without feeling like you’re meddling where you don’t belong.
Support and encouragement
Throughout your mentorship relationship, you will need to provide support and encouragement to your mentee.
Whether it’s to keep them on the right track or to push through challenging times, they’ll find it invaluable knowing they have someone in their corner to turn to without being judged.
A crucial aspect of being a mentor is the ability to understand what they are going through.
As such, you should seek mentorship opportunities in situations and areas of expertise you’re familiar with. Otherwise, you might have a tough time understanding and relating to your mentee.
Lastly, you need to be able to approach each mentorship differently. After all, each person is unique so it’s normal to assume that not all of your mentorship relationships will develop the same way.
How to become a mentor: Research your options
Once you feel confident you have cultivated your mentor skills, it’s time to explore different types of mentoring and learn how to become a mentor.
Types of mentoring
Mentoring comes in different shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common types of mentoring you can get involved with.
As the name suggests, one-on-one mentoring means mentoring one person, establishing your own structure and timeline.
Here, you are responsible for mentoring a group of people. You can either establish your own structure or timeline or you might need to follow a third-party schedule and structure.
This type of mentoring usually follows a predetermined structure and has a short timeline. This is best suited for projects that have specific requirements such as mastering new software in your company.
Similar to short-term mentoring, mentorship involving a one-time project usually has a specific timeline and end goal in mind.
This type of mentoring happens when the mentor and mentee are in two different locations. It’s also known as virtual mentoring.
Where to become a mentor
Finding an opportunity to become a mentor is not that difficult.
The first place where you should look for a mentorship opportunity and put your mentoring skills to test is your own workplace.
Just think about how many young employees you have who are just starting their own professional journeys. Instead of simply giving them advice, consider mentoring them. This will not only make the adjustment period easier for them but it will also help the company retain and engage their employees.
Another place where you can look for a mentorship opportunity is in an outside organization. This can be an organization in your local community as well as an organization in your city. This includes local colleges, churches, schools, libraries and youth sports clubs.
Mentor in types of activities that interest you
Keep in mind that you should seek out mentorship opportunities in the activities that interest you. This includes your hobbies, skills and career.
Having a personal interest in your mentorship area will make it easier to provide advice, draw from your personal experiences and give support and encouragement when needed.
Become a certified mentor
The last step in your quest to become a mentor is to become a certified mentor.
Why get certified? Becoming a certified mentor will help you prepare for your role and responsibilities and help you hone the mentoring skills we discussed earlier.
The certification program will also equip you with the support and training needed to deal with a variety of situations and address any concerns you might have about becoming a mentor.
To become a certified mentor, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Where to get certified: You’ll need to do some research to see if a certification is available in your local area or if your company provides mentorship certification. Another place to look is professional organizations that are related to your industry.
- Requirements/coursework for certification: Once you know where to get certified, familiarize yourself with the requirements and the coursework that’s needed for the certification.
What happens when you become a certified mentor?
Once you’ve completed your mentoring certification, you can start mentoring others. Aside from helping them, you can also use mentorship to advance your own career.
Mentorship is an excellent way to show them you’re the kind of person who will go the extra mile to help others.
The idea of being a mentor might seem daunting. But once you know how to become a mentor, the road to mentorship becomes easier. To recap:
- First, understand what a mentor really is and decide if this is the path you want to take.
- Be ready to have a mentoring relationship with someone.
- Develop and enhance the skills needed to become a mentor.
- Decide which mentoring opportunities would be the perfect fit for you.
- Find an opportunity to become a certified mentor in your area of interest.
If you follow the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be well-equipped to become a successful mentor in your local area as well as in your area of expertise.