Go Ahead, Be A Mentor

Q: I’m a new, first-time director. I’ve been at my company for about a year. Recently, a young employee asked me to mentor her. I’m open to the idea and I think she has a lot of promise, but I never had a mentor, I’ve never mentored anyone before, and I don’t have the slightest idea how to be one.
-B. Evans, New York City

A: You would make an excellent mentor for two reasons: You have noticed talent in this young woman and you’re amenable to supporting her growth. That’s the foundation for a solid developmental relationship. Being newly promoted strengthens your offering in that all of your experience is current.

A good mentor is able to present an honest and realistic assessment of the unwritten rules of the organization-the idiosyncrasies of management style and company politics you won’t find in the employee handbook. The third component is having a commitment to the relationship.

It is also important to suggest that she seek out others to guide her. They should include industry associates and people of different ethnic backgrounds and seniority levels. You, too, should be developing mentoring relationships to benefit your career. And you both should identify a sponsor, someone at a senior level who is influential enough to speak on your behalf in support of promotions. Read Be Your Own Mentor by Sheila Wellington and Catalyst (Random House; $25.95) and Cracking the Corporate Code by Price M. Cobbs and Judith Turnock (Amacom; $24.95).

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