This is a guest post by Areva Martin, Esq.
Not long ago, a friend of mine was applying for a leadership position with a nonprofit. On paper, she looked overqualified for the job. But she had put a lot of thought into it and really wanted the position.
I knew the CEO of the organization but had a friend who knew him even better, so I asked this friend to let the CEO know how special this person was and how she would be great for the job. By chance a few days later, I was jogging and spotted the CEO passing by, and I ran him down to tell him what an asset my friend would be to his company.
Later, during my friend’s interview, the CEO said, “You know, your friends have really gone to bat for you. I’ve gotten calls and was even run down during my daily exercise by people talking you up for this job.”
Elevating traditional mentoring to this level of advocacy should be the norm, not the exception. In the 21st century—with so much constantly vying for our attention—effective mentoring needs to be fiercely active, not passive.
When mentors share a company or industry with a mentee, mentoring should also measurably impact access, growth, and performance. But the relationship shouldn’t be limited to the more experienced person imparting knowledge or wisdom. The mentor should benefit from the relationship, too. How?
Do’s and Don’ts for Mentors
Do go the extra mile. Don’t agree to mentor someone unless the professional relationship makes sense and the person seems invested. When I’m asked to mentor someone, I reply with a mini questionnaire. If the person doesn’t take the time to respond, I know they may not fully engage. But if they’re committed and I agree, I’m in 100%.
Don’t make it about you. Simply sharing your own story of success is not active mentoring. Focus on passing on knowledge that will help that person be prepared. Your mentee may not have grown up in a household or community that offered direct access to people in the field. You may be your mentee’s only opportunity. Make it count.
Do see it as a two-way street. Young, up-and-coming professionals have so much to teach us. I make sure to surround myself with people who can help me see what’s important to the next generation, what they value, and how they communicate. From understanding pop culture references to tapping into the power of social media, young people have helped me keep my work relevant.
Do’s and Don’ts for Mentees
Do recognize the value of having a mentor. Don’t think you can “go it alone.” Every successful person has someone they look up to, a person to talk to and share ideas with.
If you don’t have a mentor, or you find that you’re not getting much out of a mentoring relationship you’ve established, identify and pursue someone who will actively support and guide you.
Don’t be a passive participant. Come to the relationship with an understanding of what you want out of it—and then don’t be afraid to ask for it. Be prepared to take the initiative and engage. To build an authentic mentor-mentee relationship, you’ll need to demonstrate your own investment and be open and direct in your requests.
Do make the relationship reciprocal. Think about what you have to offer a person who has been in the field for a while. Can you provide insights into your generation’s ideas or approach to work? Do you have practical knowledge, such as mastering (or at least getting more comfortable with) the world of social media?
As we re-enter our offices and reconnect, in person, with our peers and colleagues after months of disruption and isolation, we bring a renewed appreciation for true engagement. If we seize the moment, mentoring done well can be a target of growth and meaning for everyone involved.
About the guest post author:
AREVA MARTIN is one of the nation’s leading voices in the media. An award-winning attorney, advocate, legal and social issues commentator, talk show host, and producer, she is a CNN/HLN legal analyst, former co-host of The Doctors and Face the Truth, and a regular contributor on Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, and Dr. Phil. She currently hosts The Special Report with Areva Martin and the radio talk show Areva Martin Out Loud. A Harvard Law School graduate, Martin founded Martin & Martin, LLP, a Los Angeles–based civil rights firm, and is the CEO of Butterflly Health, Inc., a mental health technology company. A best-selling author, Martin has dedicated her fourth book, Awakening: Ladies, Leadership, and the Lies We’ve Been Told, to helping women worldwide recognize, own, and assert their limitless power. Learn more at arevamartin.com.