January 17, 2023

Mentoring FAQ – common questions about mentoring

Do you want to enroll in a mentoring program as a mentor or a mentee and still have some unanswered questions? Starting a mentoring journey might indeed be both exciting and scary. But the challenge is worth the candle – if all is done right, the mentoring journey can bring the most favorable outcomes for all parties involved. A mentee gets to develop the right skills and feels safe and supported, a mentor improves their leadership and empathy skills, and the organization, what a mentee or a mentor is part of, improves the morale of employees involved in mentoring programs.

Stats don’t lie – 90% of mentees within an organization report being happy in their job (CNBC/Survey Monkey), and they have a 50% higher retention rate than those not involved in mentoring (MentorcliQ). Mentees are promoted 5x more often than those not involved in mentoring, and 25% of them usually experience an increase in their salary, compared to 5% of people not involved in mentoring (Sun Microsystems).

So what are the characteristics of good mentors, their roles and responsibilities, and, most importantly, what are the benefits of a good mentoring program? Check out the FAQ we summed up to learn more and get ready for your mentoring journey.

Why is mentoring important?

Mentoring is one of the development tools that everyone should try at least once in their lives. Mentoring connects an individual who has a lot of knowledge and experience (a mentor) with someone who hasn’t yet gained the same knowledge or experience (a mentee). Mentoring, at its core, is the opportunity for a mentee and a mentor to learn from one another. It enables knowledge transfer between two or more people for the benefit of all.

Effective mentoring takes effort, and creating successful mentoring relationships requires specific skills, commitment, and structure from both the mentor and the mentee. Mentoring is for someone who is committed to expanding their capabilities and focused on achieving professional results, willing to ask for help, show vulnerability, and explore different paths and perspectives. Mentoring relationships take time to develop, so mentees must also be committed to upholding their end of the bargain.

What are the characteristics of a mentor?

Although it might seem that it’s quite easy to become a mentor, a person needs to possess some specific characteristics to achieve the goals set by a mentee in a mentoring program. A mentor should have relevant expertise or knowledge that a mentee is interested in developing and learning. A mentor should eagerly share career experiences, have a respectful attitude, and be eager to invest in others. A mentor should be able to give honest and direct feedback, be an active and attentive listener, be empathetic and understand the struggles a mentee might face. 

What are examples of mentoring?

The mentoring program can focus on many areas and be beneficial in many different setups. There are mentoring programs for team members who want to move up the career ladder, team members who want to become leaders, team leads who want to be better managers or those who want to enter a new career journey. The most popular examples of mentoring are: 

  • Career development mentoring

This mentoring type is one of the talent development best practices that will allow everyone to fulfill their individual career needs and overcome their unique challenges. ‍Mentees have the opportunity not only to level up in their hard skills, but also to focus on soft skills such as communication or presentation and public speaking, as well as deeper-rooted topics like self-confidence, overcoming imposter syndrome or achieving work-life balance.

  • Leadership mentoring

Being a good leader isn’t easy, especially for someone in their first-ever management role. Leadership requires a whole new set of skills that many don’t have the chance to acquire before stepping into their new position. Mentoring in leadership helps mentees to improve skills such as self-confidence, team management, and culture, establishing a feedback culture, being an inclusive leader, or dealing with difficult situations. 

  • Mentoring for women, or other underrepresented groups

Another example of mentoring is giving growth opportunities to women or other members of underrepresented groups in the organization. Even in the modern workplace, women still face a unique set of challenges and biases which can keep them from successfully climbing the career ladder. Mentoring helps women by connecting them with mentors who will empower them and equip them with tools to fight these biases and overcome the challenges they face. 

What a good mentor does

Right activities and discussions are essential for a successful mentoring program, where both a mentor and a mentee take equally crucial parts. A good mentor should first understand a mentee's needs and help define clear goals that this mentoring relationship should achieve. Then a good mentor defines the setup of meetings within a mentoring program, considering everything a mentee wants to improve or learn. A good mentor listens to a mentee, asks good questions, understands the situation, and challenges a mentee.

After a number of sessions, a good mentor looks back and evaluates the progress, asking a mentee if there's anything to adjust or add to the discussions. A good mentor creates a safe space where a mentee feels supported, understood, and empowered. After a mentoring program comes to an end, a good mentor is happy to stay connected with a mentee, following the success and encouraging a mentee to keep up with a good job.

What are the roles of a mentor?

A mentor can take on many roles within one mentoring relationship. A good mentor knows when to switch a hat and take a role suitable for the situation, depending on a discussion or a mentee's personal characteristics. A mentor can be a:

  • Teacher: the primary role of a mentor. This role allows a mentor to share lessons learned in a career and share best-case scenarios that worked with a mentee.
  • Advisor: a mentor can advise a mentee on how to approach a challenge, what steps to take to succeed, or what resources to watch or read for better learning. 
  • Role model: taking the nature of the relationship, a mentor is also a role model, showing a mentee how it's possible to develop and succeed by own example. 
  • Sponsor: in some cases, a mentor can be a sponsor, bringing a mentee to the right circle of people, supporting networking activities, and even introducing them to impactful leaders.
  • Cheerleader: last but not least important role of a mentor. For a mentoring relationship to work out there, a mentor should create a safe and trusted space where a mentee is understood and supported, boosting mentee’s confidence and celebrating small and big wins. 

What are the styles of effective mentoring?

For mentoring to be effective, a mentor should introduce a style relevant to the specific relationship with a mentee and goals set within a program. Effective mentoring can have three main styles:

  • Educating style: when a mentor educates a mentee, expanding the knowledge base and gaining specific skills. A mentor needs to figure out what areas a mentee is lagging behind so that the training is tailored to specific needs. 
  • Challenging style: when a mentor challenges a mentee who feels stuck in a job, trying to find new ways to develop, new people to meet, or a new career to take.
  • Cheerleading style: when a mentor helps a mentee get rid of imposter syndrome, change negative views into positive ones, and prove a success if not noticed so far. A mentee is usually positive and supportive, always finding the good even in bad situations.

What are the mentor's responsibilities?

In a mentoring relationship, a mentor should take on a number of responsibilities to ensure a successful outcome for a mentee. Firstly, a mentor should commit to fostering a relationship for a specified period and allocate time to meet regularly. A mentor should establish explicit goals and objectives for a relationship with a mentee. A mentor should maintain confidentiality, respect the mentee's limits, actively listen to a mentee, and provide constructive feedback. A mentor should encourage and assist a mentee in professional development, recognize the work, and follow through on commitments. By the end of a mentoring relationship, a mentor should cross-check against set goals and advice on further work, if needed. 

What are the benefits of mentoring?

There are many benefits of mentoring that can help both a mentee and a mentor, but the most eminent worth mentioning are: 

  • A mentor helps define success: a mentor gives a mentor an idea of what success means for the job profile given to the current skill set. In collaboration with a mentee, a mentor can help define exactly what path to follow toward progressing in a career.
  • A mentor helps identify gaps in the skill set: a mentor provides a mentee with valuable, constructive feedback while also recognizing the areas for improvement, the skills that need to be developed to move ahead, and suggesting how to acquire these skills.
  • A mentor boosts a mentee's confidence: a mentor serves as a role model whom a mentee can trust. Once a mentee is aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they will gain more confidence to voice problems, express ideas, and control their career better.
  • A mentor teaches how to take feedback the right way: a mentor makes it easier for a mentee to accept and act on the feedback received. 
  • A mentor shares access to a good network: a mentor gives more accessible access to a whole new network that a mentee may not have been able to break into yet. The network encourages new ideas, expanding the influence and exposing a mentee to great opportunities. 

How long does mentoring last?

Most often, a mentoring relationship lasts from three to six months, with a pre-set amount of meetings required for a mentee and a mentor to schedule (what can be six or twelve 1-hour long meetings within a given period of time). 

For example, the Femme Palette Mentoring program is set for six months and 12 one-hour-long meetings with a mentor. During the program, a mentor helps a mentee set up SMART goals. Femme Palette gives a mentee guidance on how to work with a mentor to get the most out of the mentoring sessions and supports the relationship along the way.

Would you like to join the Femme Palette Mentoring Program so that we locate a mentor best suited to your needs? Don't hesitate to schedule a call to discuss your goals and mentor's requirements. 

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