What do we mean by mentoring?
Right, let’s start from the top – what’s a mentor, exactly? A mentor is a person (usually someone with more experience, often an individual in a leadership role) who the employee can rely on for support and guidance. Ideally, this relationship will allow the employee to build on their existing skills, establish goals and advance their career within the organization.
Don’t wait to get started
Starting a new job is a big deal – especially when you’re doing it all for the first time. Knowing that they’ve got somebody to rely on and a safe space to discuss any challenges or concerns will help your junior employee settle in and get comfortable as they learn the ins-and-outs of the role.
During those first few days and weeks, having somebody to go to for those inevitable questions that pop up during the onboarding stage is essential.
This person doesn’t have to be their ‘forever mentor’ – though, if it’s a good fit, and both parties are willing, you can certainly stick with it! However, most of the time, the individual you choose during these early days should be someone your new hire will consider a peer, somebody working in a similar capacity who’ll have the experience and knowledge to make sure they meet the right people and learn the ropes.
And be patient with answering them! Make sure your junior staff know that not only is it okay to ask questions, you encourage it. By asking questions, they’re demonstrating curiosity, interest in their new position and their willingness to learn and be coached – these are all great things.
With this in mind, however, we know that everyone’s busy, and there’s certainly a limit to how many interruptions one person should be reasonably expected to entertain during the workday.
If you find your mentee’s coming to you with the same query again and again, it’s okay to bring it up, and ask them if there’s something you can do to help them feel more confident completing this task. Answering questions is good, but doing their work for them isn’t helping anybody.
Don’t do it for them
What’s that old saying – give a man a fish, teach a man to fish? When your desk is stacked with your own projects and a new hire’s got questions galore, it can be tempting to just go ahead and do it yourself, but try and resist the urge.
Whenever possible, allow your junior employee to carry out the task themselves (under your watchful eye, of course). Having them go through the steps on their own, rather than watching you do it, will help them develop the skills necessary for the role and increase the likelihood of them remembering how to do it on their own next time.
As an added bonus, it’ll show them that you have confidence in their ability to do the job, which will boost their confidence, too – a win-win!
Mistakes happen, offer constructive feedback
The fear of messing up at work is something we’re all familiar with, aren’t we? Junior employees are just starting their career journey and super eager to prove their worth at your organization, so the idea of making a mistake can feel extra daunting.
If and when your new hire drops the ball on a project or fumbles over their words in a big presentation, be caring and compassionate.
Note what they did well, and what can be improved on. Remind them that nobody’s perfect – even the best in the business have made the wrong call a time or two. It’s your job as their mentor to provide honest, constructive feedback that’ll help them knock it out of the park next time.
Tailor your approach
No two employees are the same, so what works for one, might not work for another.
Ask your mentee for honest feedback during your regular check-ins, and determine if you need to adjust your approach or pace based on their comfort level and learning style.
Prioritize goal setting
Also known as a career goal, a professional goal gives you something to work towards and guides you on your career journey as you grow and develop professionally. Essentially, these goals act as a kind-of framework, giving you structure and helping you reach new career milestones.
As a mentor, you’ll want to help the junior employee set attainable, incremental goals based on what they want to learn, improve and achieve in their new role.
Sit down with them regularly to check in on how they’re progressing and address any challenges they’ve encountered along the way. Talking openly about goals will give you a clear picture of what your employee likes, what they’re passionate about and where they see themselves in the future.
Help them find their passion
While working on goal setting, you’ll gain insight into what matters to your junior employee. Once you determine what they’re excited about, you’ll be able to ensure that they find purpose in the work they’re doing with your organization.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some good questions to get you started:
- What do you like best about the job so far?
- What would you like to do more of?
- What would you like to do less of?
- What skills would you like to expand on?
- What type of work do you find meaningful?
Ask for their input
Junior employees may not have much on the job experience, but they’ve got a lot to bring to the table. Your organization can benefit from a fresh, younger perspective and, when nurtured, their ideas can provide real value to your business.
Let your mentee know that their ideas and opinions are both welcome and appreciated, and encourage them to speak up in meetings – in a professional and constructive way, of course!
Give credit where it’s due
Your junior employee did an outstanding job on a big assignment? Landed a new client? Figured out a way to improve a process that wasn’t working anymore? Shout it from the rooftops!
Junior employees are often insecure and unsure about their abilities, so positive feedback goes a long way. Let them know you’re impressed by their work and, if possible, let the leadership team know, too.
A good manager lifts up their employees, gives credit where it’s due and endeavors to shine a light on the skills and abilities of their team members, opening the door for new opportunities.
Ready to make it official?
Improve employee engagement, retention and overall job satisfaction by committing to developing a formal employee mentorship program. Job seekers today are eager to join companies that offer ongoing training, learning and development opportunities, and this is a great way to show that you’re invested in their continued growth with your organization.