At the early stages of my career, I had a mentor who would always give me time whenever I had an issue, however, to get his attention I would have to go and stand outside with him whilst he listened, quietly puffed away on his pipe and asked me a few questions. This approach worked for me (despite the pipe-smoke) and I quickly developed in my role as felt trusted to do a good job. On reflection, he demonstrated all five factors identified by Julie Starr (2014) of what good mentors do well:
- Connect through effective listening
- Build a relationship of engagement and trust
- Maintain an effective focus
- Help overcome false limits, roadblocks or barriers to progress
- Help someone grow
However, if your mentoring is online, rather than face-to-face what are the key factors to bear in mind when you volunteer to be someone’s mentor?
- Building rapport and a relationship is still important – some recent research found that alignment of values may be more important in e-mentoring than other factors such as matching gender or ethnicity (Bierema, 2017)
- Be clear about the purpose of the mentoring – you both need to have a shared understanding of the mentoring process and agree expectations between you.
- Most importantly, when online, ensuring you respond to your mentee in a timely Set a realistic expectation of how much time you can commit to mentoring right at the start.
- Encourage your mentee to identify their own goals and work through ways towards these rather than going straight in with advice/ suggestions. Good mentoring is rarely just about advice (see five points above)!
- Think about the structure of your mentoring and how you can enable the mentee to move on. At a mutually agreed end point, encourage a bit of reflection and share feedback and learning.
Just as ‘random acts of kindness’ can make us feel great, so too can offering your time and a ‘listening ear’ as on online mentor. Of course, if you get started as an online mentor and really enjoy your role, you can further develop your coaching/ mentoring capability on one of our programmes at Bristol Business School.
Senior Lecturer Organisation Studies
Bierema, L (2017) e-Mentoring: Computer Mediated Career Development for the future in Eds. Clutterbuck, D. A, Kochan, F.K, Lunsford L, Dominguez, N & Haddock-Millar, J, The Sage Handbook of Mentoring, London: Sage Publications.
Hooley, T, Hutchinson, J and Neary, S (2016) Ensuring quality in online career mentoring, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 44 (1), pp26-41.
Starr, J (2014) The Mentoring Manual, Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.