I recently posted a list of tips for managing Mentor/Mentee relations. It was pretty well received, but when I thought about it, really what I was setting up there was a list of expectations for the relationship for the Mentee – there wasn’t much in the way of advice for Mentors.
- Be upfront about expectations. I already wrote out a list of things you can expect from me and ways I’m likely to work during the relationship, but having your own version of that is really important.
- Fix a time to check-in on a regular basis. Make sure that it’s the Mentee’s responsibility to come to you and that you aren’t having to spend your time chasing after the Mentee. It doesn’t need to be set in stone – travel and holidays for example make regular plans, but unless there’s a good reason, I think keeping a standard slot sets a good pattern.
- Use a meeting format that works for you. For me that’s voice chat. Emails tend to sit in my inbox not being dealt with – it’s a source of frustration that I’m not getting to them, but it also puts the onus on the me to find the time to answer and drive the relationship, which should be the Mentee’s role. My view is that you can email me by all means, but generally emails that need long replies become an agenda for the next voice call. Again, this is personal preference, but make sure sure that you define your preference.
- Police your time carefully – some mentees are enthusiastic, others are demanding or needy – it’s important for your sanity that you set boundaries on your time and stick to them, otherwise what started as a one hour per week commitment can easily escalate to something much more intensive when you aren’t looking
- Remember that there’s two sides to being a mentor – one is the hard skills (and as an AI specialist, this is what my mentees tend to fixate on), but soft skills like networking and broader professional development are also super important to develop in a mentee.
- Don’t be afraid to course correct your mentee as required. If you don’t think they’re making sufficient progress, putting in enough work, then you need to tell them. The goal I set for myself is to ensure that my mentees are people I’m proud to introduce to my professional network and put forward for openpositions I hear about. In order for that to happen, sometimes, tough love is required – long term, it will be better than the alternative.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a few things that I’ve picked up. I’m learning how to do this a bit at a time, and I’ve benefitted from some great mentors myself – going back to when I was an undergraduate working at Edinburgh. These days, I have an awesome mentor – she’s wise, knows me far too well, and very forthright. A lot of what I know I learnt from watching her. Thanks Sheri :)
P.S. If you’d like to put some of this into practice, remember that the GameMentorOnline program is always looking for new members!