Source Newsroom: Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University mentoring expert offers tips on finding and being a mentor
Newswise — (Winston-Salem, N.C., February 19, 2013) Gone are the days when senior executives would anoint a protégé, taking him or her under their wing and teaching them the organization’s ropes. When it comes to modern mentoring, choosing quality and quantity could help you identify and reach your goals. And for that, a Wake Forest mentoring expert says you should turn to your network.
“A mentoring network can help you across many areas of your life,” Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and professional development at Wake Forest University, says. “It’s not uncommon to have a mentor for different aspects of your professional life, and for your physical or spiritual life, too.”
Why you need a mentor
According to McWilliams, mentors ask thoughtful questions, give objective feedback and help mentees meet goals. She offers three reasons why people need a mentor:
•Helping with transition: “Whether you are starting college, finding a new job or looking for ways to grow your career, mentors help you learn the written and unwritten rules of the road to success.”
•Developing your identity: “Mentors push us to explore our personal values and beliefs,” McWilliams says. “They help us discover who we are and how we find meaning.”
•Pursuing goals: “Whether it’s personally or professionally, mentors see our strengths and interests, then encourage us to develop those areas to achieve our goals.”
How to find a mentor
Mentoring relationships can be formed through formal mentoring programs, which are usually highly structured, time-limited and have defined goals. Many organizations use these programs to match mentors and mentees. But more often, mentoring relationships begin informally.
“It’s a relationship that goes beyond networking or informational interviews,” McWilliams says. “If there is someone whose advice you seek for difficult decisions or whose guidance you always trust, chances are these people are your informal mentors.”
How to become a good mentor
Because it can be so informal, McWilliams says you might find yourself in the role of a mentor without much notification. “It’s important to remember that the more experienced person, or mentor, provides guidance, feedback and wisdom to help the more inexperienced person, or mentee, grow. It’s a personal and purposeful relationship, but it is not just counseling, coaching or advising.” She offers four tips for improving mentoring skills:
•Developing a regular schedule for meeting: “Be sure you are focused on the relationship and your mentee’s goals.”
•Practicing active listening: “Remove distractions and practice paraphrasing what you have heard before you feel compelled to respond.”
•Asking thoughtful, thought-provoking questions: “This relationship is based on intentional conversations,” McWilliams says. “Open-ended questions encourage your mentee to reflect on his or her decisions and choices. Mentoring conversations are built around four key questions: Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How do you plan to get there? What happened?”
•Providing objective feedback and guidance: “Make it a safe space for your mentee to take risks. Sometimes that means taking a wrong turn or falling down. It’s not your job to prevent these bumps in the road; sometimes the best learning happens when we don’t succeed. A mentor should make sure those learning moments aren’t missed.”
McWilliams says mentoring relationships are not necessarily intended to last forever. “Be sure to celebrate your successes and bring the relationship to closure at the right time. It’s another chance for you and your mentee to chat about what each of you learned and what you will take forward into a future mentoring situation.”
About Wake Forest University:
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.