Five things a discerning mentor should consider before investing in a mentee

As someone with a number of years of experience in your career, you probably recognize the importance of giving time, insights and advice to up-and-coming professionals. You fundamentally understand how important a mentorship was for you as you progressed in your own career.

You might also remember your initial apprehension in developing mentor relationships. Clearly, mentorship helps mentees make better career moves, improve their work product, increase their professional self-awareness and understand organizational nuances.

It is also important to ask: what do you want to give? In mentorship, you can be selfish, too. Are there subject areas you enjoy talking about more than others?  What is your vantage point on career management and career advancement? Do you prefer speaking about management and leadership approaches? Or perhaps you were the first in your family to go to college and enjoy talking about persistence as well as your evolution as a leader?

In juggling all different kinds of initiatives and priorities in your leadership role, you can consider mentee selection similar to your investment style.  Just as you evaluate investment decisions, you can take a similar approach to mentoring decisions.  So, how should you invest in your “mentorship bucket?”  As an experienced investor, you likely seek to balance risk and return as well as bring diversity across asset classes. Here are some investment criteria to consider in taking on a new mentee:

  • Try Before Your Buy Recognize that mentor/mentee relationships do not need to last indefinitely. Give each of your potential mentee a trial period to see if the relationship is working both for you and for them.
  • Are They Eager? Has the potential mentee shown some amount of enthusiasm in learning and accepting your insights, wisdom, counsel and coaching? Are they showing initiative and follow-up in a way that fits your schedule?
  • Are They Organized? Does the person come to you with specific, thoughtful questions? Have they sent you an agenda in advance of your meeting? During your conversations, do they show a logical thought process?
  • Do They Respect Your Time? Will your potential mentee respect the boundaries you set? Is the potential mentee reaching out more often than you would like, or are they willing to interact with you on a quarterly or semi-annual basis?
  • Are They Different Than You? Ethnic, gender, sexual preference and cultural understanding are the 21st century currency for the modern executive. Simply put: diversity matters.  Are you keeping your mind open to offering mentorship to someone who does NOT look like you or talk like you?

The most important piece to investing is an incremental, consistent commitment. Some investments need a little more time than others.  Just as in investing in the markets, not all of your decisions generate similar yields. By taking a playing “portfolio approach” to mentoring, you will certainly find your investments generating a great return.

Jason Levin founded Ready, Set, Launch, LLC®, www.readysetlaunch.net, after a career in brand management at Unilever, consulting at Accenture and employer branding sales at Vault.com.  You can email Jason at [email protected] and follow him on twitter @jasoncareers.