I was keen to become a mentor to give something back, as I have found mentors at various points of my career incredibly helpful and influential. Finding the right mentor is crucial and sometimes the chemistry isn’t there, but nearly everyone has something they can teach you.
I have found it hard to think of myself as being senior, or grown-up enough, to presume to give people advice or opine about what they could do differently, or better. It’s been quite challenging for me to remember this isn’t about having a friendly chat (although it can be very similar) but that I am there in a distinct capacity, as someone who has a responsibility to provide thoughtful and hopefully good advice.
I have found it most helpful for me when mentees have had clearer goals or problems which we can discuss, especially when they give me a steer beforehand what sort of mentoring relationship they want, and what they hope to get out of the discussion. That gives me time to prepare and sometimes to think of useful information or people to point them towards. I try to inspire and enthuse as well, and that works best when I have a sense of the person and their goals and ambitions.
I have asked my mentees for feedback and that’s helped encourage me that I am doing the right sorts of things. I’ve given all kinds of feedback, having variously reviewed and commented on competency examples, offered mock job interviews, suggested ways to communicate more effectively with difficult managers, and talked about strategies to be more visible, confident, empowered and to use the right body language – passing on useful training I myself received from RADA. Mentors need to be bespoke in their approach, it’s not one-size-fits-all. I definitely recommend it!