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Top tips on keeping mentoring relationships going virtually

11 September 2020

Being a mentor is an excellent opportunity to share your knowledge and career experience, gain coaching and managerial skills and learn about other organisations. Mentoring relationships are more needed than ever at the moment as we navigate a new working world. And as with everything else, how we find ways to manage this has understandably changed as mentoring meetings have shifted from face-to-face meet ups to online catch ups. Mentoring virtually does have some differences to mentoring in person though, so we have gathered some top tips for successful virtual mentoring.

Choose how to meet and agree the practicalities

Choose a technology that you both feel comfortable to meet with – Zoom and Microsoft Teams are popular choices. Video accessibility is really important where possible.  Agree practicalities around your meeting technology from the start. If there are problems with your internet, you can turn off your video function or revert the meeting to a phone call instead. If appropriate, make sure you have each others phone numbers in advance of meeting.

Keep face time going if you can

Meeting face-to-face via video calling can be key to establishing a good connection with your mentee. Eye contact and non-verbal gestures serve as really good communication cues and also show your mentee when you are listening. It also gives your mentee a face to connect with when talking, which helps to create a space for them to open up and be really present in the meeting.

Describe your space and set your scene

It’s great if you can give your mentee a description about your space and who is around when you start a meeting. This creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere for your mentee and lets them in on who you are and your life around you. Mentoring can be quite a personal experience and confidential topics can come up – so it’s also good for your mentee to feel really comfortable when they are talking and to have a sense if there’s a possibility of others being able to hear them. The realities of working from home mean that interruptions can’t always be avoided – this is absolutely fine as long as everyone is clear from the start.

Keep things casual and comfortable

While mentoring is a professional development relationship about our jobs and careers more widely, part of the joy of mentoring is that it is external to our workplace, a space for mentee and mentor to open up and explore ideas. Try to avoid meetings feeling too rigid and work-like. Grab a cuppa and chat like you would if you were meeting in a café. You may also spend longer at the beginning of your meeting talking about life more generally and how you both are.

Keep present and focussed in the meeting

Sometimes online meetings can feel easier to attach less importance to – perhaps with the disconnection created through not being in the same place when you meet. Try and stay present as much as possible for your meetings, avoid distractions with your phone and emails. Prepare for the meeting as if you were meeting in person.

Stick to timing – don’t get tired

Communicating virtually requires a more intense concentration for our minds which can be tiring. Meeting for 40 minutes to 1 hour usually works best. Any longer and it is hard to stay focussed and keep your energy up. Try and stick to the time slot you’ve arranged for your meeting, as you would if you were meeting in person and needed to get back to the office.

Interested in becoming a mentor? Find out more

CharityComms runs a mentoring scheme where we match comms professionals working in the sector with external communications colleagues as part of their professional development. We’re always recruiting new mentors onto our scheme. You can find out more about being a mentor and how the process works from start to finish and how to apply online here.

This is part of our career series, helping you to level up and make the most of your potential.

Image: Pixabay on Pexels

Lally Wentworth

mentoring manager, CharityComms

Lally joined CharityComms in December 2008 to develop and manage the CharityComms membership scheme. She now runs our peer support scheme, including matching communications professionals working in the charity sector in mentoring relationships as part of their professional development.