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Being a Good Mentor

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After an MIS case competition with two of my Davidson Management Honors Program menses, Iqra Ali (left) and Kristy Forsthoff.

When you arrived — or arrive — on campus, you were or will probably be assigned a few peer mentors. I know that I volunteered to be a mentor a few times for different organizations. I loved the idea of having a mentee, but looking back, I should probably go and apologize to all of them because I was a terrible mentor.

With all of my mentees, I remember the pattern distinctly: email them introducing myself, asking their major and asking to meet up. We would meet once, talk about our goals and dreams, I would tell them to “email me if they have any questions,” and that was all. Half of my mentees, I haven’t spoken to since. The other half I would consider friends, but I don’t think that I have done my job adequately as a mentor.

I started to realize my poor mentorship abilities during my internship at my current job. When you start your internship here, the firm assigns you a peer liaison. My peer liaison was on all of my projects, and he was there to teach me everything I needed to know to do my job successfully. I happened to be very lucky with my peer liaison, but being on so many projects together allowed me to be comfortable with asking any and all ‘stupid’ questions. My peer liaison delegated tasks that he knew would challenge me, but he knew that I could handle. I was able to grow tremendously thanks to the help of my mentor, because he was around so often to help me grow into my role. I also had a variety of other peers and managers, who taught me best practices and gave me opportunities to learn more at the firm.

And that was just during my summer internship! When I actually started my job, I continued to have outstanding mentorship experiences. Since I moved (offices and departments), I was assigned a new peer liaison and and new performance manager. My performance manager is basically my work psychiatrist. We have a phone call every week, and I tell him everything going on in my work life. Every time I have any issue at all, he is always there to provide advice.

Since I have had such stellar mentors, I now have a better idea of what it takes to be a good mentor. It starts with reaching out often. I often expected my mentees to just come to me if they had any questions, but a mentee may be too shy to reach out to you. They also may not know what to ask. If they have nothing to say, offer up specific topics to discuss. For example: “How is your current project going? How is it working with the members on your team?”

It is also important to look out for new opportunities for your mentees and get them more involved in your organization or university. I have less formal mentors at my firm who I will go to regarding different types of projects. Occasionally, they also send new projects my way. If you hear about a conference, competition or job that could promote your mentee’s career, make sure to send it to them! If you don’t have opportunities to send, then consider creating them. Find ways for your mentees to help with a current project, or offer to let them shadow you . My mentors help find ways for me to grow professionally, and I now see that helping mentees find opportunities is incredibly important.

Building a strong personal relationship with your mentee is also important. You can pinpoint when your mentee might actually be running across any issues, and you will have a better idea of advice to offer up when they need it. Taking an interest in your mentee’s personal life will make them more comfortable with sharing their concerns with you, and will allow you to help them accomplish their goals.

I now have a wide variety of mentors at the firm who I reach out to for different things. I might reach out to my performance manager if I have questions about working with others, but I reach out to a senior staff when I need help doing a particular type of project. I was a lazy mentor to my assigned peers in university, but now that I’ve truly experienced the benefits that a good mentor can have, I plan to work a lot harder to be a good peer mentor to new staff and interns. If you are a mentor, then I encourage you to reach out to your mentees often, send them opportunity leads and just get to know them better. When they succeed, you will feel honored that you helped them get there!

Michelle Abuda

J. Michelle Abuda earned her BS in Management Information Systems and MS in Business Analytics from the Naveen Jindal School of Management. Currently, she works at Crowe Horwath as a Regulatory Compliance Risk Consultant in the Columbus, Ohio office. During her time at JSOM, she was actively involved as a leader on the Dean's Council. She helped found the JSOM Book Club, as well as the TEDxUTD Club. Read more articles

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