10 top tips for being a great mentor

Being a mentor can be hugely rewarding, help advance your career – and someone else’s. We share 10 things mentors can do to make the relationship work.

1. Use your instincts
Knowing if your mentoring relationship is going to work is a lot about instinct. Use your first meeting with your mentee to assess the chemistry. Ask lots of questions and get to know each other so you get a sense of whether this is the right match for both of you.

2. Be realistic
Have an honest discussion about what you can expect to achieve in the time you have together. Find out what your mentee wants from the relationship and decide together if that’s achievable.

3. Set parameters and agendas – but be flexible
Set some overall goals for the mentoring relationship at the beginning, and add some specific objectives for the month ahead each time you meet. This will help you to see the progress you’re making. If you decide to have an agenda for each meeting, don’t make it too rigid. Allow time for your mentee to share other concerns that have come up since you last spoke.

4. Focus on the positives
Your mentee may have asked for a mentor because they were having some specific problems or felt stuck. When you’re discussing their challenges, remember to ask them about their strengths and successes as well as areas they want to improve on. Try to frame things positively and focus on what they are good at.

5. Remember to really listen
Having someone to talk freely to, who understands the sector, is one of the biggest benefits of having a mentor. Often, your mentee will already know what they want to do to solve a problem or move forward, they just need to talk it through. Listening, and making sure your mentee feels heard, is one of the most important parts of your role.

6. Remember what you’re not
You’re a work mentor, not a therapist/counsellor/parent/best friend. Don’t feel pressured into going into areas you don’t feel comfortable with or aren’t qualified to tackle. Instead, find out where you can signpost your mentee to for extra support if they need it. You can contact CharityComms if you need any support with this.

7. Keep moving forward
Ahead of each meeting, ask your mentee to let you know what they want to discuss. And after your meeting, ask them to email you with any learning and action points. This can help you avoid getting stuck on the same issues or covering the same ground.

8. Try not to hand-hold or problem solve
You don’t need to have an answer to every question, or solution to every problem. Encourage your mentee to find their own solutions by reflecting back what they say, asking questions and sharing your experiences.

9.  Share ideas and contacts
Email your mentee details of useful books, events, blogs or forums. If you know people they might be interested to meet, and you feel it’s appropriate, put them in touch with your contacts and colleagues

10. Enjoy it
Being a mentor can give you insight into your own work challenges and management style. Your mentee might come up with approaches and ideas you hadn’t thought of. And it can be very satisfying to know that you’re making a difference to someone else’s career.

“Being able to pass on your experience is the best thing about being a mentor and it’s nice to have insight into another organisation. Mentoring also helps me manage people in my team. I’ve learnt to listen and am reminded not to take everything at face value, knowing there might be things people aren’t comfortable to say.” Shaf Mansour, head of digital content and communities at Barnardo’s."

Shaf Mansour
digital strategist,
Raising IT

You can find more information on being a mentor on our scheme here. Or email Lally: lally@charitycomms.org.uk