From Morton Blackwell to Kay Coles James, the conservative movement has numerous highly accomplished leaders who have dedicated their lives to mentoring and fostering a new generation of talent.
As someone only a few years into my career however, I sometimes wonder at what point I will feel qualified to give people advice. Just yesterday, a friend came to me following a fantastic job offer, asking about salary negotiation. Throughout our meeting, I could not help but feel the weight of my advice given that he was about to go into a conversation with his future boss.
You will likely find, if you have not already, that soon into your career people will begin asking for your opinion from small things like how to respond to an email to larger, more pressing career questions.
While there is no formula to good mentorship, here are 4 rules which have helped me along the way.
Be generous with your time and expertise
Thinking on the times when you have not been the high quality mentor, you would like to be, I am willing to bet it came down to one of two things; you were too busy, or you became impatient with the mentee. It is easy to become wrapped up in your work and to be frustrated when someone does not appear to take your advice.
Remember that people invested in your development, and you likely frustrated them at times. It is important to communicate clearly and to remember that this good practice for you too. After all, you will mentor many people in your career.
Understand that you are developing too
It can be daunting to mentor others when you are new to the workforce. You will likely continue to rely on mentors yourself for many years to come. However, your fresh perspective may be what your mentee needs, especially since you remember better than anyone what it was like to require similar guidance.
There are occasions when you will say, “I don’t know”
It is imperative that the advice you give is informed from your experience and will help the mentee. Remember that your words carry a lot of weight; do not make the mistake of giving advice simply because you do not want to let your mentee down.
A good example of this is when a mentee asks me about whether they should go to college or not, or sometimes if they should drop out. Despite my own personal opinion, I will always advise the mentee to speak with their family and with their professors. Sometimes “I don’t know” is the best answer.
Make a long-term investment in your mentees
Your commitment to your mentee does not end when they find a job or move away. That is not to say you should chase them down to give advice -- and if your mentee stops asking then let them take their own path. However, follow-up from time to time, and make sure you are on hand to assist should they require it.
Remember, the people you mentor today could be your colleagues and coalition partners tomorrow. Invest in them and it will be both rewarding and pay dividends.