The role of a mentor is to share your experience and advice with someone that needs guidance. When it comes to professional development, it means sharing your professional perspective in your field with someone that aspires to work in the same area as you. I have listed the benefits of being mentored in a previous article, but what are the qualities needed to become a good mentor?
This article uses the perspectives of mentoring newcomers to Canada. I'm sharing the five qualities I've noticed working in the Mentorship for Internationally Trained Professionals since 2016:
Be an active listener.
To provide the right advice, a mentor needs to understand where their mentees are coming from, their expectations, and what they would like to know more about in their field. Making assumptions can harm the relationship between the mentor and the mentee. It's best to ask questions and listen carefully to get to know the person better before giving any advice. If you're unsure how to approach the conversation, try asking open-ended questions such as: "What do you think?" or "How did you come up with this idea?"
The best mentors can put themselves in the shoes of others. They can see things through the eyes of the other person. This allows them to understand better the challenges and obstacles that mentees face. For example, if you are mentoring someone new to your country, you may need to consider cultural differences when providing advice. You may also need to consider that some people may not feel comfortable talking about specific topics because of personal beliefs. Being empathetic will allow you to understand these challenges and help your mentee overcome them.
Being a mentor doesn't mean you have all the answers or are more intelligent than the person you're mentoring. An interesting example is when you are mentoring someone new to the country. Re-starting their career in a new country doesn't mean they don't have experience in their field. Some newcomers don't have English as their first language, so limited vocabulary and accents are common barriers. Showing respect builds mentees' confidence by acknowledging their strengths and pointing out areas of improvement.
A great mentor provides constructive criticism without making the person feel bad about themselves. If you provide positive feedback, then you should also provide negative feedback. Don't just tell the person "good job" if they didn't do something right. Instead, explain why they did something wrong so that they can learn from it. The worst thing to happen to someone being mentored is to be misguided, meaning they believe they are doing everything correctly when they aren't. By providing feedback, you'll ensure that your mentee knows what they are doing well and what they could improve on.
As a mentor, don't just focus on helping your mentees with their technical skills; you should also help them in non-technical aspects. For example, if someone lacks confidence when starting, you should encourage them to keep trying. Demonstrating that you as a mentor are also available to talk and open to listening to your mentee's frustrations, fears and concerns will build trust and show that you genuinely care. Technical skills and confidence will build a solid foundation for the future success of your mentees.
If you would like to become a mentor and help newcomers to start their careers in Canada, consider joining the Mentorship Program for Internationally Trained Professionals offered by Lutherwood Employment Services.
It is a successful program funded by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada with the participation of volunteers from diverse professional backgrounds.
"New to Canada and without Canadian work experience, I was struggling to get a job and find a place to settle and feed my family. Lutherwood helped me get a food allowance and find a place to live."