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Tips to be a great Mentor

Everybody can be a mentor. Many people feel they might not be a good mentor because they don’t lead a Fortune 500 company or a highly sought after qualification. But everybody can be a mentor – whether you are a first year grad at a law firm mentoring an ambitious university student looking to crack the industry or an industry leader looking to impart some words of wisdom on a protégé – even life coaches, retirees, stay at home mums and dads can impart wisdom to a mentee. It isn’t your education or qualifications that shape you as an individual, but your experience. And that experience is invaluable.

Mentorship is highly personal – there is no one size fits all to what makes a good mentor and a good mentor-mentee relationship. However here are a couple of pointers that may help:

  • A good mentor is committed to the relationship. Mentorship is just as much about the relationship between the mentee and mentor, as the knowledge imparted. It is important that a mentor is committed to the relationship and demonstrate that you care about him/her and are interested in helping them.


  • Show genuine interest in your mentee as an individual. You need to show interest in your mentee. Being a former mentee yourself, you should understand how it feels to be on the other side, and let the mentee know that you have him/her at heart.


  • Don’t assume anything about your mentee – it is okay to ask. It is always important to understand your mentee. Ask the mentee:
    1. What it is they want and how you can be of assistance;
    2. What are their goals;
    3. Where do they see themselves and want to see themselves in the future; and
    4. What their expectation is of you to help them get there.


  • Listen. As much as you’d love to be always on the talking side – giving advice and encouragement, you need to be able to give your mentee time to speak while you take your time to listen and understand them.


  • Respect & Patience. We must respect everybody – understanding that we are all individuals, with different pasts, backgrounds and experience that has shaped us to who we are today. Respect and patience is the foundation of a good mentor-mentee relationship. And don’t forget, give the mentor-mentee relationship time to flourish.


  • Set expectations together with your mentee at the beginning. At the start of the relationship, you need to sit down with your mentee and set expectations about the relationship. You need to also develop a program that includes an action plan which can be measured and evaluated as you progress through the mentorship. Don’t forget to celebrate the successes as well as analyze the areas that need attention. Also understand that results don’t occur overnight, but take time.


  • Be a good role model. It wouldn’t mean anything after you just finished advising your mentee and you are caught doing the exact opposite. As a good mentor you need to do what you preach, be a good role model and lead by example.


  • Willingness to share your experiences and insights. Your mentee is interested in you, your experience and even your failures – things that you can’t learn from a text book or a course. As a good mentor, you need to be willing to share your knowledge, experiences and even your failures with them – they understand that you are human after all, and can learn really valuable lessons from the experiences.


  • Be open-minded and compassionate. You know how it feels when arguing with someone about something; they never accept your view unless you accept theirs. That applies here too; in order for you to offer valuable guidance and advice that will be well received, it is important that you first try to understand the needs and feelings of your mentee. You can only achieve this by showing deep and implicit empathy.


  • Confidentiality. Understand that a mentor-mentee relationship is highly personal and trust is a key pillar of that relationship. Nothing erodes trust quicker than breaching confidentiality.


  • Solve for the long term. When working with your mentees, work with them as if you’ll be their mentor forever. This mindset will ensure that you offer them long-term guidance, which they’ll need to make decisions that outlast their time with you.


  • Make open your resources to your mentee. Mentoring is not just about giving all the answers; it also involves providing access to resources that pave the way for your mentee’s journeys.


  • Seek out classes or projects related to skills your mentee wants to develop. While mentoring, you need to be able to search for situations or opportunities – or even create them yourself that your mentee can partake in. It can be anything from connecting them with someone with experience in their dream job or industry, or sending them a website to a conference or class they might find interesting. All the same, it shouldn’t matter how much or how little experience you have in your mentee’s current or desired job or industry, you can still provide them with helpful resources they need to succeed. Take notice of the areas where your mentee wants to grow, and always be on the look-out for opportunities that might point them in the right direction.


Here are a couple of tips from some of our mentors: