I just finished reading Sheryl Sandbergâ€™sÂ Lean In, and the â€śAre You My Mentor?â€ť chapter really stood out for me. It highlighted an issue Iâ€™ve grappled with for years: how awkward and ineffective a formal mentorship can be.
Thereâ€™s already plenty of advice for young people on how to be good mentees. But as someone who has been both a mentor and a mentee, I want to provide some solid tips to mentors instead, so they can guide their mentees in a more meaningful way:
- Donâ€™t say youâ€™re open to mentoring young entrepreneurs unless you have time. While I believe that most mentoring should happen organically, if youÂ do volunteer to be an advisor or a mentor for a formal program, make the time. Leaving young entrepreneurs hanging is the equivalent of having an amazing date and never calling again: not a good look. If youâ€™re excited about a young entrepreneur, email them back (even if itâ€™s just to say youâ€™re busy and will follow-up in a month).
- Donâ€™t call yourself a mentor on the first date. I recently had a man Iâ€™d never met before introduce me to a woman (who I had also never met) by saying: â€śWe really loved your pitch. I wanted to introduce you to my colleague. I think she would make a really great mentor for you.â€ť The woman then concurred and said, â€śIâ€™d really love to be your mentor.â€ť It felt like someone was proposing marriage on the first date. It was tough to respond because I didnâ€™t know anything about the woman, I didnâ€™t know why she thought sheâ€™d be a good mentor, and I had no idea how she defined mentoring. If you want to be someoneâ€™s mentor, be cool. Donâ€™t come out of the gates asking for a mentorship relationship. Let the relationship evolve.
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