This piece originally appeared in the March 2022 edition of DS News magazine, online now.
As a 24-year mortgage industry veteran, I’ve climbed corporate ladders, lead and managed successful teams, contributed to the success of the companies and clients I’ve worked with, and have found fulfillment in my career; but I didn’t get here alone.
I’ve found success in my career with the help of several great mentors who have believed in me, challenged me, and sometimes, even opened doors for me. These relationships have shaped my career trajectory and my life, which is why I am so passionate about paying it forward and helping to develop and inspire the next generation of leaders in our industry; particularly, our future women leaders who may still have a harder time getting a coveted “seat at the table.”
If you’re considering stepping into a new mentorship role—or, strengthening an existing mentorship—here are four tips to help you foster effective, mutually beneficial relationships.
1. Make It Count
You have to be willing to put the time into mentor/mentee relationships and not allow yourself to get double (or triple) booked over your designated mentorship meetings. Keep that time sacred to show your mentees you’re just as invested as they are. Eliminate distractions and, while tempting, avoid multitasking.
2. Be Honest and Vulnerable
It’s important to provide open, honest feedback with mentees to put them in the best possible position to navigate difficult circumstances they may encounter in their careers. By drawing from your own experience and sharing important lessons you’ve learned throughout your career (the highs and the lows), you’re demonstrating vulnerability and emotional intelligence, which can help strengthen your bond with mentees.
3. Instill Trust
When I think back on my own experience with mentorship over the years, what made those relationships rock solid was trust and knowing that my mentor had my back. Creating a safe space for mentees to talk about their challenges, goals, and fears (without fear of retribution) is so important to the integrity of the relationship. Let them know you have their back, and they’ll have yours, too.
4. Say Goodbye to Comfort Zones
Steve Jobs said it best: “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” One of my favorite parts of my job as a people manager and mentor is to bring out the greatness in the people I work with; sometimes that means pushing people outside of their comfort zones. I held myself back from opportunities I didn’t feel “ready” for before I had a mentor guiding me, and I want to be that person for my mentees.
Clichéd as it may sound, having a mentee really does give you a sense of fulfillment. As your mentee’s confidence grows or they apply a piece of your advice to navigate a challenging situation, it’s hard not to beam with pride and rejoice in their accomplishments; but they’re not the only one learning and growing from the relationship.
The most common misconception about mentorship is that the mentee is the only one benefiting; but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In speaking with my mentees, I’ve gained fresh perspective on my business just by talking through challenges they may be facing or getting a crash course on the latest tech or social media trends that can help refresh my approach. Like any solid relationship, mentorship is a two-way street built on mutual trust and respect.
If you’ve benefited from mentorship throughout your career, like I have, I hope you’ll consider paying it forward to the next generation of young leaders through mentorship. Your impact and voice is far more influential than you may realize, and you will undoubtedly benefit in new and surprising ways, too. Who knows—you may even learn to take some of your own good advice and apply it to your business, too?