We all experience intense pressures on our time. It is difficult to achieve a work-life balance, and the working day fills up with tasks you were expecting and those you didn’t plan for. Doing a job well often takes up more time than you can afford. I know that you mentors are conscientious and don’t want to let your mentees down. This is why you might start work a little earlier, skip lunch break, stay late, or take work home. If you are not careful, however, you might be heading for burnout. In this blogpost, I offer three simple strategies for being good to yourself and your mentee.
Blocking out your diary
Of course, it’s obvious that blocking out time in your diary for you to meet with your mentee will allow you some quality time together. But, you say, I’m already rushing madly to get everything done! Well, think of the advantages. Perhaps you can delegate some of your work to make the space? Perhaps you can re-prioritise your work and force yourself to cut out the tasks, or the meetings, that are not central to your job. Having a conversation with your line manager about the importance of making time for mentoring could usher in a more assertive you. You never know, this could be the start of a period of higher job satisfaction.
Think about the advantages for your mentee. Knowing that you have blocked out time for them will help them to feel valued. Make sure you tell them how hard you have worked to make the time, and why. If you tell them about this in advance, they are more likely to prepare effectively and make sure the meeting with you is productive. In anticipation of this protected time with you, they can save up the little questions they might have bothered you with on the go, and you might discover everything works that much more smoothly. There may be some paperwork to complete, and this can be a good time to establish expectations between the two of you. Your mentee, after some dedicated one-to-one time with their mentor, should go away with lots of questions answered.
Working together can be an undervalued aspect of mentoring. Are there things your mentee can help you with? Try bouncing ideas around with them when preparing for a meeting. Ask them to proofread a report you have drafted. If you do a job that is more physical, often two pairs of hands are better than one. If you do work together on physical tasks, make the effort to explain what you are doing and why. The sooner your mentee understands what you are doing, the sooner they can develop the skills and competence themselves.
There may be times when is isn’t appropriate for mentees to join in the work alongside you, especially when the work is more skilled than they are capable of. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of learning opportunities in situations like this. Think of it as a shadowing situation and an opportunity for you to act as a role model. Your mentee can learn a huge amount about the trade or profession, and the organisation, through careful observations. They can also learn about elements of work such as prioritising and time management.
Whenever possible, ensure that the mentee doesn’t feel at a loose end, or that they are getting in the way. In a shadowing situation, you can help to maximise the learning by priming your mentee for aspects of your work to look out for. Try to make connections between the observation opportunity and any learning outcomes your mentee needs to achieve. Observation can be a powerful learning tool. Ask them what they learnt afterwards.
Have coffee or lunch together
Okay, so you generally skip coffee breaks and eat your lunch at your desk. Perhaps it’s time to be a little kinder to yourself? Being a mentor can force you to consider what kind of work ethic you want to convey. It can make you look at yourself with new eyes.
The workplace can be an inappropriate setting for discussing personal information. Spending some informal time with your mentee can help you get to know them on slightly more personal terms. Understanding something about their home and family circumstances and what they do in their spare time can help with rapport. Furthermore, creating the opportunity to talk outside the work setting can enable your mentee to open up about things that might be bothering them. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable about their relationships with certain people. Perhaps they are unsure of the general direction of their career.
A win-win situation
Making time to spend with your mentee should be a win-win situation. The chances are, your mentee will become more productive and learn with more confidence. The more of an asset they become to you, the better for the organisation. If your mentee is following an educational programme, they will give positive feedback to the education provider, and this of course, will reflect well on you. However, perhaps the biggest win for you should be in the personal satisfaction you gain from giving some of your time to a learner. Being a mentor can be life-enhancing if you give it a chance.
How will you make time to spend with your mentee?