Practical tips on real-world mentoring

Feb 05, 2023

Helping other people develop and be successful could be one of the most rewarding aspects of your career.

One of the great aspects of my life today as someone who is retired from my businesses and working as a college professor is all of the time I have for mentoring. It’s not just students and former students – I also mentor a bunch of other people who have sought me out or that I have met in a number of different places, including LinkedIn.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. It’s a mutual thing. One thing I have learned that has been reinforced so many times over – mentoring has to be a mutual thing. Mentors and mentees have to seek each other out. There isn’t any way you can “assign” these people to each other. It’s not a forced relationship. There has to be a mutual interest in working together. Without that, mentoring will fail.
  2. Mentoring takes time. Not everyone has it. Of course, the best mentors are most likely the people who are already the busiest. But if you are serious about mentoring, you will still need to find the time to do it. Again, this implies the need to be selective about who you will mentor. You will find that mentees who never listen to the advice of their mentors, or those who are too argumentative, will probably need to be dropped.
  3. Set a regular time to meet or call. Stick with it. This schedule is beyond crucial, otherwise other priorities will rule the day and the mentoring probably won’t occur. Make it a time that you think you can stick with.
  4. Meetings are better than Zoom calls, Zoom calls are better than phone calls, and phone calls are better than texting. It’s really hard to replace face-to-face contact when establishing a relationship of trust between two people. Yes, this makes it harder and more time-consuming, but that’s the way it is.
  5. Sometimes you need to be available for unscheduled meetings or calls if there are particular problems or situations. You cannot always stick to a schedule because the mentee may be dealing with a situation that is urgent and takes your input now. Try to make yourself available for those situations and you will be a better mentor.

I have found mentoring to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. There is something about helping other people develop and be successful that no amount of money can replace. Maybe it’s because I was fortunate enough to have some great mentors over the course of my career. Or maybe it’s because I am the parent of five daughters that this instinct is strong for me – I don’t know. But I do know I greatly appreciate the psychic rewards of mentoring.  

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

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