Mentoring the Right Mentoree

At a certain point in your career, people begin asking you for help and advice. This a nice thing. It’s a way to give back, a way to lift others up, a way to give value, a way to feel good. There are also times when people ask but they are either not a good fit or maybe aren’t the type of person in which you want to invest.

Or, maybe they have simply used the phrase ‘I want to pick your brain’. Ugg! Who on earth wants ‘picked’ at? May we please stop with that irksome little phrase!!
Anyway, sounds harsh; its not, rather, its quite fair. Here are a few tips for evaluating a mentoring request.

Tip One: Is this a person you have the expertise and skills to help?

Tip Two: Set some time parameters. If someone wants to have a phone call or take you to lunch, you are not obligated to donate your entire afternoon. Say, ‘sure I have 30 minutes to talk with you about that’ and stick with, kindly stopping the person when you need to go.

Tip Three: Ask the mentoree if they are up for honest feedback. Like you, I get a lot of resumes from acquaintance’s kids looking for me to recommend them for a job or internship. But, not all resumes are the caliber I can recommend to my colleagues. The best thing I can offer is kind suggestions for improvement. I’ve had people get mad, taking offense to the fact that I won’t just ‘send it on’. These are parents and students that can’t accept feedback and they are not likely to get ahead.

Tip Four: Ask the mentoree what their goals are and what outcomes they seek. Are they ready to do something new or take a leap? There is no reason to listen to someone complain about their personal problems (if they are serious enough, you need to connect them with a counseling professional). If the mentoree doesn’t keep it focused and productive, move on.

Tip Five: Does the mentoree show you genuine appreciation and respect for your time and talents? If they are late, constantly rescheduling, or just mooching, it’s not a fit. Ever had someone in your house you can’t seem to get to go home no matter how many hints you drop? Or, know the person that mooches food or beer and never repays? Yeah, I bet you do. It feels bad – and it enables. Your mentoree should feel grateful for what you offer; if not, its not worth it for them.

Tip Six: Do you enjoy talking with and helping the mentoree? That’s probably the easy gut-check question. If you are having fun and learning something from your mentoree, it’s probably a great relationship that may span a career.

It can be hard to tell someone no directly and kindly, however, I encourage you, for the mentoree’s sake equally as much as your own, to evaluate carefully and offer your time thoughtfully.

ACT like a pro out there!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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