Not everyone is suited to the role of mentor, and anyone considering offering such support, or thinking about a request for support should carefully consider these issues.
Interest/A Willing Volunteer
A successful mentor must have a genuine interest in helping another person with his/her career and professional development. A mentor should be willing to put forth the effort without consideration of personal benefit. Personal benefits are often intangible, but they do exist, and will materialize over time.
Mentoring is not effortless, nor is it an instantaneous event. Time will be spent in active discourse with the protégé, and time will be required to adequately prepare for meetings. A good mentor will be easily accessible to their protégé. The mentor must be generous with time throughout the relationship, not just at the beginning. You must be an active participant in the relationship, seeking out the protégé rather then waiting for the protégé to make contact. It is recommended that the mentor be prepared to commit to a minimum of two hours every other week for mentoring activities, including preparation and review.
Your protégé must be able to contact you easily. Mentors must respond in a timely fashion. Your protégé may need a few moments of your time on short notice. However, an important component of professionalism is the respect for the time of others. Hence, it is up to you as the mentor to define reasonable limits and to identify demands that are excessive or unreasonable.
Favouritism is a risk in any professional relationship. A mentor with a supervisory role over a protégé, who is also an employee, must take particular care to be aware of and avoid favouring that person. (It is recommended that mentor/protégé pairs not be established in these situations.) A mentor must reflect on and evaluate his/her own effort in the relationship.
Willingness to Learn
A successful mentor must have a desire and willingness to learn from his/her protégé. A mentoring relationship is interactive and requires the mentor to be committed to setting goals and working towards specific learning objectives.
Mentors are not perfect. Remember how you learned the ropes, and how many mistakes you have made along the way. Then consider that your protégé may also make those same mistakes.
You must be sensitive to cultural and gender differences. One of the goals of this guideline is the acclimatization of a great variety of individuals into the professional and technical culture of Alberta and Canada. This does not preclude the privileges of individuals to their gender or culture, however different from your own. Some of the most effective protégé/mentor matches involve very different individuals.
Your protégé will expect, and the Association demands, that all details and particulars that you discuss with your protégé be kept in confidence. Your protégé will come to you to discuss their difficulties with others, and as a professional, gossiping about those difficulties with any other person is highly inappropriate and may be considered unprofessional conduct. However, any situation involving a risk to the public would override this expectation of confidentiality.
What Skills Do You Have To Offer?
Effective mentors must have certain 'soft skills' to both work with, and teach their protégés. (A good mentor will also recognize his/her own limitations, and will take active steps towards improvement.) The essential skills include:
A significant portion of a professional's time is spent in communication activities. As such, developing skills in this area is essential for career success. An effective mentor should be able to provide a good example and provide active guidance to the protégé in the following areas of effective communication:
An effective mentor can further a protégé's understanding and skills in the following areas of professionalism:
To be an effective mentor, it is essential that you be able to break from your normal experiences and methods when required. Are you prepared to deal with a totally new situation? Where will you turn for assistance?
Your protégé will come to you for advice. As a mentor you need to be able to separate yourself from the situation, to be able to view both sides, and to provide your protégé with meaningful direction that is not slanted towards your personal biases.
An Information Source
Your protégé will come to you for information on anything, often seeking both professional and personal advice. In your role as mentor, you can provide your protégé with both the professional and personal information they are seeking. How do you manage your personal life around work (or perhaps your career around your personal life? - Do you live to work, or work to live?) Are you involved with organizations outside your employer -- technical societies, your professional association, or community groups?
Are you prepared to listen and respond to your protégé in matters relating to office politics questions or problems? Do you have your own conflict resolution skills? Do you understand how individuals respond to situations of stress and uncertainty?
Before proceeding with any mentoring relationship, you should consider the following points. It is appropriate to visit this list during a mentoring contract to review your commitment.
ü I am committed to drawing on my own experience (successes and failures), and learning to provide insights that I believe could assist the protégé.
Additional Mentor Roles
Sponsor - A mentor should be in a position where he/she has the power and ability to help the protégé gain visibility and exposure, secure invitations to key meetings, gain membership to important task groups, or be recommended for new projects and learning opportunities.
Teacher - A mentor is able to help a protégé learn new skills by allowing him/her to observe the mentor in action and emulate the skills and behaviours demonstrated. Providing constructive feedback is also invaluable.
Information Source - A mentor can provide his/her protégé with both one-time and ongoing information.
Nurturer - A mentor can assist his/her protégé by listening to his/her frustrations, and by offering support and encouragement. You can serve as a sounding board, providing additional insights and clarification on issues.
Adviser - Based on personal experiences, a mentor can provide his/her protégé with advice, sincere opinions, and unique insights.
Connector - As a mentor, you are in a position to offer a wealth of introductions to your protégé, connecting him/her with other professionals, and opening up new avenues and opportunities for their learning and growth.
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