Over the last few weeks we have chatted with more than 50 mentors and mentees to gather insights about their experiences with mentoring. To find mentors and mentees, we went back to our alumni network at UCLA. We asked them about their mentoring experience, how they went about finding mentees and mentors, what went well and what could have gone better. Here’s what they had to say.
Most of the mentors and mentees found each other through their own networks or at best through their schools or companies. There were a few who found each other through a professional organization but that was not the case for the majority of them. The good news is that most people would be interested in doing more mentoring.
When we asked mentors why they took time to mentor others, we found that (not-surprisingly) mentors were not looking for much in return and did it as a way to give back. One mentor even mentioned to us that they loved living vicariously through their mentees.
Good mentors set expectations and give clear confident feedback. They demand a structure and an agenda for their session. Ineffective mentors are reserved and tend to only answer questions directly without digging into why mentees are asking questions.
Good mentors help mentees get introduced to new ideas, career opportunities and people. Ineffective mentors have a mistrust of their mentees and are skeptical of the mentees’ motivations.
Good mentors listen more and talk less. The general tendency is for mentors to take up more of the air time but the good ones don’t let this happen. They actively listen to their mentees, they playback the issues or mentee’s questions to reaffirm their understanding and then form a thoughtful response. The best ones will give you very customized advice and a course of action. Ineffective mentors are more interested in telling their stories and tend to ramble on. They generally lose track of time and often go off-topic.
Good mentors have a deep inner desire to give back and genuinely want to help others. Ineffective mentors are looking to get paid for providing advice and are always looking for something in return.
Good mentees stay in touch with their mentors and follow up with status on actions taken and do the legwork of setting up future sessions. They send thank you notes to mentors and show appreciation for the mentor’s time. Bad mentees complain about how the mentor is not helping them and has no skin in the game.
Good mentees help mentors live vicariously through them. They offer to help the mentors and make it a two-way street. Bad mentees are interested in saying the right keywords to the mentor so that the mentor can give them a job.