This is a guest blog by Lauren Groff
The mentor/mentee relationship is one that needs to be defined early on to ensure that engineers get what they need out of it. Most of the time it goes great, and everyone is happy. Sometimes though, things go wrong and that’s how relationships get damaged. Because of this, you need to ensure you’re not making the following mistakes as an engineering mentor. Review the mistakes listed below to ensure everyone is on the same page.
1. Making the Relationship One-Sided
As an engineer, you may feel as though you’re responsible for the success of your mentee. That can lead you to dominate the conversation, thereby making the relationship very one-sided. The mentee won’t get anything out of that, and it just won’t be helpful. Instead, let the mentee initiate the conversation.
You want them to share their goals and what they’re hoping to achieve from the experience. You, in turn, will then support and offer assistance as needed. That way, their achievements are their own, and you’ve given them the building blocks they needed to get there.
2. Not Setting Goals
Speaking of setting goals, it’s important that you do so early on. “You’d think setting goals would be obvious, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen,” says writer Martin Glover from Paper Fellows and Lia Help. “You both need to sit down at your first meeting, and hammer out what needs to happen.”
Each mentee will have different goals. They may want to get promoted, improve their public speaking skills, or get more involved with company culture. Help your mentee decide on their goals, and create steps that will get them there.
3. Not Being Flexible
As a engineering mentor, you may have an idea in your head of what mentoring looks like. This is especially true if you’ve been a mentor before. However, you can’t let that idea dictate how you work with your new mentee. As time goes on, it will become clear how you should both work together, so allow the relationship to adapt and change as needed.
4. Telling the Mentee What to Do
Should you be telling the mentee what to do? The mentoring relationship shouldn’t actually be about you simply telling them what they need to do next.
“As a mentor, you’re helping the mentee understand their own goals,” says business expert Saffa Hicks, from Boom Essays and Ox Essays. “They aren’t going to grow if you just lay out the answers. Instead, they need to use your expertise to find answers that are right for them.”
5. Pretending to Have All the Answers
As an engineering mentor, you’re feeling the pressure to have all the answers for your mentee. After all, they’re looking to you for your experience and advice. However, that isn’t actually going to be helpful to them. If you’re pretending to have all the answers, you’re actually harming the relationship as you’re not giving the mentee the space to find the answers themselves. You’ll both find it more rewarding if you look for the answers together.
6. Breaking Confidentiality
In any mentoring session, the agreement should be that the meeting’s contents are confidential. The mentee should feel free to share anything they need to in the session, as they may feel unsure in some areas and need some help.
If you share anything from those meetings, you’re going to break trust. Once that trust is broken, it’s almost impossible to repair. Agree to a confidential meeting space, and you’re both going to get much more out of the experience.
7. Not Making Time
Finally, as an engineering mentor, you’ve got to make time in your schedule to talk with your mentee. If you don’t commit to making that time, then they are going to find it harder to work with you. Schedule your meetings and don’t let anything interrupt them. When you have an emergency and need to cancel, give them as much notice as possible.
When mentoring is done well, it improves relationships in the business as a whole. You’ll really get a lot out of mentoring, so make sure you’re avoiding these mistakes when you take on the role.
About the Author:
Lauren Groff is a writer who focuses on mentorship and the benefits it has for businesses as a whole. She’s a business writer for UK Writings and Academized, as well as a blogger for State of Writing.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about the thing you do as an engineering mentor.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute