Paying it Forward: How to be a Professional Mentor

Ivy Exec Mentors Share Their Advice to Aspiring Mentors

Learning is a lifelong endeavor. No matter who you are or how successful you become, there is always something new to learn, ways to grow, and paths to pursue. Mentors can help proteges push their horizons and provide guidance, but also enjoy important benefits from the experience.

Mentoring can be a vital part of a career, for both parties. Below, Ivy Execs Mentors share what it’s like to be a mentor and tips on how to approach developing such a partnership. All Ivy Execs Mentors are seasoned industry professionals and business leaders.

“I think mentoring is a unique opportunity to step outside your usual circle of friends and social media’s echo chamber to gain a close understanding of how the world looks through someone else’s eyes,” said Raj Siddam, Global Software Engineering Leader and Ivy Exec Mentor. “New perspectives lead to fresh ideas, and who knows where fresh ideas could lead you. Not every mentoring partnership is life-changing, but we see enough of it to understand that every mentor has the potential to originate surprising change.”

Siddam said that mentor/mentee relationships can be transformative for both individuals. “You’ll learn a lot about yourself and have stories to last a lifetime. You develop strong leadership skills, gain new perspectives, and the lessons you teach can also serve as a reminder to yourself to follow your good advice,” he said.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Business leaders who are considering becoming a mentor should approach the relationship with an open mind and understand that mentoring is a two-way street. The relationship is more symbiotic than, say, between a student and a teacher.

“I would say the best advice I could give any new mentor is ‘Seek to understand, rather than be understood,'” said Rick Planos, a consultant, career coach, and brand development expert. “So often we are too focused on what we are saying that we don’t listen enough for the clues or perspective of those we are talking with. As I have moved up throughout my career, listening has become more and more critical.”

Planos said that one of his favorite mentoring experiences involved a young woman from New York in the retail field. “I was a little nervous as this brilliant young lady was a Harvard graduate, and I am a Big Ten grad. We had an outstanding discussion and have made a great long term connection. She was even able to teach me some new things AND be a resource for my daughter, who also lives and works in New York.”

The mentor/mentee relationship should be constructive and give-and-take. When successful, each person finds a professional partner to share ideas and have in-depth professional discussions. The discussions can lead to new perspectives, ideas, and solutions to problems.

Mentoring is rewarding

Helping someone else achieve success is a rewarding experience, and most successful business leaders are problem solvers at heart.Mentoring is rewarding Becoming a mentor is a perfect way for business leaders to find a satisfying outlet to share their experiences and help someone else on their professional journey.

“It is always satisfying to see people succeed,” said Mark Friedman, Ph.D., who is an Executive & Career Coach and Organization Development Consultant with more than 25 years experience.
“It is particularly rewarding when clients seem stuck, but then have a new direction and renewed spirit after a conversation helping them articulate their goals and a path forward,” he said. “No matter who you are or what you have accomplished, sometimes it is nice to have a sounding board. Someone who listens without judgment and can help you reflect, and help you forge a path forward.”

Keeping an open mind

Like with any professional relationship, there can be missteps by both the mentor and the mentee. Most experts agree that mentors need to begin by listening and not dictate to the mentee without truly understanding their perspective, needs, and challenges.

On the flip side, mentees need to approach mentors realistically. Mentors are there to help and provide guidance, not provide all of the answers. Just as the mentors must listen, the mentees have to be open to what mentors have to say, said Kevin Lee, ex-CEO, of AWWA ltd.

“It still surprises me each time whenever a mentee jumps onto a mentoring session, and the mentee is insistent on one’s pride and achievements, and simply refuses to accept any counsel or advice from any mentor, and just wants quick answers to sometimes deep-seated issues which they refused to confront or be transformed,” he said.

Lee said that mentoring is extremely satisfying when both parties listen and take the right approach. He said that mentors should always lend an encouraging hand of support to help mentees build on their strengths. He said the process can uplift people to see new or alternative possibilities and can be transformative.

“The greatest reward for me is when they took this transformation challenge and rise to the challenge and excel in their transformation,” Lee said.

A mentor/mentee relationship can be a transformative life experience. Mentoring can be a deeply rewarding experience for all parties. Mentors can provide mentees with guidance, advice, and perspective. Mentees can sometimes help mentors see a new perspective, or maybe even learn something about themselves.

Meet with a handpicked Ivy Exec Mentor to gain insights and advice on your career!

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