Mentoring: How to Do It Right

4 min read

Discover more about mentoring and know what 6 mistakes to avoid

Mentoring in IT can be hugely beneficial to both mentees and mentors themselves, allowing them to gain an alternative perspective and foster a natural exchange of ideas.

When seeking a mentor, the best candidates are usually individuals who have an essential need to share their knowledge. You often find great prospective mentors at a company or university, running workshops, giving lectures, organizing meetups, or simply providing orientation classes for new members. When you identify someone and feel this person could be a good match for you, approach them and ask their advice about your career development or work related issues. For example you were fascinated by their talk about where the FinTech industry will be in 20 years, and now you are trying to define your future career path. Or perhaps some of the ideas they mentioned were relevant to the problem that you had recently encountered. This approach may result in finding the perfect mentor.

Mentoring is a big commitment, so be ready that not everybody would be willing to agree. Perhaps, a one-time consultation or an answer to a specific question would lead you out of a deadlock.

In general, a good mentor has a strong intrinsic motivation, they want to see your growth and be excited about your success. Harboring an altruistic nature, mentors tend to want to make the world a better place and have a strong desire to invest their time and energy in people. A mentor is a person with their own vision, which they are willing to share, such as company evangelists.

Sadly, many mentorships fail. It’s one of those things that is easy to understand, but much harder to implement correctly.

Here are some common mentee’s mistakes:

Wasting a mentor’s time.
A mentor should never be used like a search engine. Try to deal with a problem yourself first, and only then ask a mentor for their advice. Value your mentor’s time.

Providing no feedback.
Remember, mentors seek moral satisfaction and have a desire to share what they’ve learnt. If feedback is not given the mentor might become disappointed and mentorship will no longer be effective.

Not doing your homework.
As a faithful mentee you do not have to follow every single piece of advice offered by your mentor, but you should definitely comprehend and try to adapt it to your situation. People learn by doing, not just listening. If you bail on applying new insights, you can hardly count on any effect from the mentorship.

Mentors aren’t always perfect too. Here are some common mentor’s mistakes:

Instructing instead.
Mentorship is much more about sharing and encouragement than about curriculum and instruction. Yes, the mentee may need both a teacher and a mentor, but let’s call a spade a spade. One seeks a mentor to impart wisdom and a sense of purpose, re-focus on the most important things in their career and life.

Becoming a recorded video guide.
Mentors often become rigid, sticking to the same narrative, ignoring the specifics of a particular mentee. Even though a mentee can appreciate the well-chosen stories and highly concentrated knowledge, mentorship is supposed to be different from reading an article or taking an online course. A good mentor tailors his program for a particular mentee to aim for a bigger impact.

Playing a thought leader.
When a mentor crosses the line and orates on unfamiliar subjects, their vision becomes distorted by patterned thinking and oversimplification. In this case their unsolicited advice isn’t welcome.

Beyond the relationship of the mentor and mentee, who may be perfect in their roles, there can be a third external force at play:

Random matching.
Sometimes enterprises who preach mentorship let potential participants enroll into the program and then automatically assign mentors to mentees. This might be gravely destructive to the mentoring process.

Great partnerships breed talent. Mentoring is a valuable resource that can benefit the company and individual employees as a whole. Sharing knowledge and wisdom, and nurturing new ideas and vision is one of the secret ingredients for a better future and success.