The mutual benefits of mentoring...
Somewhere along the way, I'm not sure where it was, I transitioned from being the young turk/rainmaker to trusted, old, adviser and mentor. It took me some time to adjust to this as I still felt like the young turk chomping at the bit to be the rising star but I noticed that more and more people were emailing or calling me for advice on how to negotiate sales contracts, employment and partnership agreements or assemble an advisory board for their startup. After 35 years of a very diverse career I found very few questions about something I hadn't been through firsthand as some point or even multiple timest. I recently have come to accept my status and persue mentoring professionally. I have been working with about a half dozen young professionals for the past year ranging in age from 21 to 38 (I'm 55) all of whom are c-level executives at established post A round startups and one at a post seed round startup. I'd like to address some things as suggestions to anyone looking to become a mentor or work with one.
- Establish a regular schedule for in person or telephone/skype sessions of approximately one hour in duration a minimum of once a week and even more if possible. Pick a time where both of you will be relatively stress free and not during your normal working hours where you may find the need to postpone oergencyr reschedule your sessions.
- Establish an emergency "code" between you so if your mentee needs a quick bit of advice prior to a big meeting for instance they can be able to get through to you no matter what you are doing. Something as simple as a "911" text works but be sure not to abuse it.
- Work on the most pressing topic for your mentee. There most likely be several but prioritize them and tackle them one at a time in order of urgency and be sure to followup on past topics in future sessions. Most major issues tend to resurface to some degree at some point.
- Do not limit yourself to working only with someone in the exact career field as yours. Basic business principals are universal and I have found that we wind up discussing more about dealing with people than industry specific topics anyway. Stepping outside your comfort zone will feel a bit odd at first but I find it a great way to expand my business acumen to have to do some research in order to advise a mentee properly.
- Do not limit the age and or sex of your mentee. I have found a very strong sense of affinity and mutual understanding from those being about as opposite as they get demographicly from myself. Focus on your similarities not your differences.
- Use your mentor’/mentee's time well. Be prepared, focused and concise in each meeting. Let them know in advance if your schedule changes.
Establishing and maintaining solid, enduring relationships with a mentor/mentee are very rewarding for both sides and in many cases turn into lifelong friendships. Once established you will come to value the insights received from your mentor and mentors will gain a fresh perspective and have their skill sets updated by assisting the mentee deal with old problems in new ways.