Be a better mentor as you help advance or launch careers

When you mentor someone, you give the gift of your time, expertise and support.  Yet too often, mentoring starts without a plan or mentoring of the mentor.

Mint Artists Guild is exploring more intentional mentoring for our creative youth in 2022, and starting to consider some initial plans. We may seek volunteers to assist us. First though, we decided to share ideas and insights for becoming a better mentor, found from a variety of organizations and experts. Here is our start mentoring right guide:

Create a structure and plan.  Before you begin mentoring, decide on details, schedule and structure for how the mentoring will work. Be explicit on your areas of expertise – how you may help develop skills – and how to stay in touch. Make it clear that your mentee needs to take an active role in managing your relationship – and asking for help, psychologist and mentoring expert Linda Phillips-Jones, Phd wrote

Understand and support your mentee goals.   One of your early conversations could set or clarify career and life goals, or establish deadlines or top priorities.  Dig into the why behind goals – and develop some what if alternatives, in case covid or a change in corporate priorities upends things.  If the goals seem overly ambitious, a gentle nudge toward interim benchmarks may help.  

Ask excellent questions. Listen actively and ask great questions.  Pose questions that inspire your mentee to persist, to put in extra effort or to problem solve. Some years ago, I wrote a piece for about great questions leaders ask, including “How do we build on that?” and “How can I help you be successful.” My favorite though, was “If I had a magic wand to solve this problem, what would you want me to do with it?” That question by former Steelcase executive Nancy Hickey, shared, may tickle creatives’ imaginations. 

Show up and build trust.   Building trust in the relationship is a crucial piece of mentoring, Phillis-Jones wrote.  So take time to show you care – and will treat your mentee with respect. Set a regular schedule for conversations or check ins. Be present in your mentee’s life and work, whether by leaving a comment on their Instagram posts or by texting them encouragement on the days leading up to a big show.   Mentors should show up at the key moments for their mentees, or send someone to represent them.

Share others’ wisdom.    Send worthwhile articles or YouTubes that will assist or inspire your mentee. Send Mint blog posts. Tag or share with her, him or them on uplifting quotes or valuable insights.  Subscribe to an industry or trade association e-letter and share select bits.  

Offer encouragement.  This is valuable in good times and bad.  Give your mentee a safe space to vent or consider future possibilities. When they’re in a rough patch, help them “seek a better understanding of the situation at hand,” writes Laura Frances, chief knowledge officer at River / MentorcliQ.  Give them context to see the way forward or help them come up with solutions that they will embrace.


Three more resources:

  • Read Phillips-Jones’ 80-page booklet The Mentors Guide in a free PDF here. It includes a draft mentoring agreement, first meeting checklist / tool, etiquette of mentoring and much more.
  • For a more ideas on mentoring a young person, the Ford School at the University of Michigan has created an excellent online Mentoring Guide.  
  • Read First Round’s guide for mentoring start-up leaders – advice about “teaching to fish” that’s valuable for anyone working in a smaller, adaptable organization.  


Coming soon: Smart advice for mentees to make the most of their mentorship.