Right now, we are doing everything differently. We are working differently. Even if we have always worked remotely, doing so now during a pandemic is very different. We are grocery shopping differently. We are spending our downtime (what we have of it) differently. We are parenting differently, and our children are certainly “attending” school differently.
Right now, all of our relationships, including those between mentors and mentees, are operating differently and under new and different conditions.
So what does this mean? How can we keep up with our mentors and mentees during this unprecedented and—let’s face it— messed-up period in history?
Among a series of “how do we do this during a pandemic” type questions, you might be wondering how to engage in mentorship during a pandemic, either as a mentor or as a mentee.
Mentorship must be reciprocal and authentic, must involve listening, and should include meeting people where they are at the moment they are having the conversation. Mentorship involves a high level of emotional awareness. Just as we have to adapt our communication styles and approaches during pandemic times when interacting with everyone in our lives, we must adapt our communication approach and expectations with our mentors and mentees during pandemic times. Here’s how:
Making the Most of your Mentorship Relationships Right Now
• Leverage microsteps. A microstep is a small action used in strategic relationship building (for example, when establishing, strengthening, or maintaining a relationship as mentor or mentee) that may or may not help you achieve a greater goal. Examples include reaching out to a mentor or mentee to inquire about how they are surviving e-learning or contacting a mentor or mentee to ask what they need right now, how they feel right now, or how you can be helpful.
• Let go of unnecessary urgency. Our days, weeks, and months seem to pass in the blink of an eye. One of the best things about working remotely in pandemic mode is that people are less likely to demand immediate responses to correspondence. Give your mentors and mentees needed breathing room when it comes to communication. Relinquish any hypervigilant follow-up habits and expectations (do follow up and respond, just not instantly).
• Embrace recurring (or at least scheduled) catch-ups with mentors and mentees. Be open to regularly recurring (or at least scheduled) virtual catch-ups with your mentors and mentees. By prioritizing these relationships and carving out time to maintain them, even when we cannot necessarily meet in person right now, your mentor and mentee relationships will stay strong.
• Emphasize wellness during conversations with mentors and mentees. Right now, few of us feel as we felt before the pandemic. Our physical and mental health have been significantly impacted by the last several months. When speaking to mentors and mentees, ask about how people are feeling, how they are sleeping, how they are eating, how their stress level is. Right now, all of our relationships, including our mentorship relationships, provide an opportunity for us to check in with one another as we experience the wellness effects of pandemic life.
• Have and execute mentorship goals. Now more than ever, our time is limited. When reaching out to mentors and mentees to catch up, be thoughtful about what you hope to discuss and questions that you have. Perhaps you are looking to identify a new mentor who can help with a particular area, or maybe you are networking more with mentors who are junior to you in their careers. Spend time thinking about what you hope to accomplish with mentor and mentee relationships. Set goals and put plans in place to achieve them. These goals can be small or large, and they can certainly be achieved as we remain in this virtual environment.
Megan Burke Roudebush is the founder of keepwith, a platform that teaches people how to network. She is a frequent Fast Company contributor and will be speaking at the Fast Company Innovation Festival on “Making the Most of Mentoring, Virtually and In-Person.”