The mentor experience has changed throughout the last few years, but especially over the course of the pandemic. Given the Great Resignation, employees are reclaiming their power, advocating for themselves, and seeking a better work experience.
This better work experience includes having mentorship available that is inclusive, measurable, and results driven. With the shift to virtual work and employees becoming increasingly mindful of their priorities, we’re seeing an increase in employees wanting not only mentorship but also a way to connect virtually with other employees in order to build meaningful relationships.
We’d like to believe that we leave our personal selves at the door when we walk into the office, but that’s not usually the reality. Think about your favorite coworkers and bosses. You probably have similar values and interests that helped you form strong working relationships. Yet when it comes to mentorship, we focus on a mentor’s title, perceived level of power, or number of followers, which aren’t key indicators of a strong mentor. Nevertheless, corporate mentorship programs continue to pair mentors and mentees based on position, title, or gender rather than personality traits and lived experiences. With 52% of American workers considering a job change and burnout running rampant, sustainable mentor-mentee relationships are more important than ever.
Having a mentor to connect with on a deeper level can help you see the light at the end of the pandemic-era tunnel, open up new pathways to job satisfaction, and help you acclimate to a bumpy road of ever-changing office environments. Therefore, to determine whether your mentor is a good match, consider these three questions.
Can you truly open up to your mentor?
In a mentor relationship, you often share very personal aspects of yourself, such as your goals, aspirations, struggles, and so forth. So in many ways, entering a mentorship is an exercise in vulnerability. To determine whether you can be honest with your mentor, ask that person what level of information they’re comfortable sharing and discussing. In the same way you would build a friendship, start small and expand the mentor relationship as time goes on.
When you’re building a mentorship relationship, also ask yourself whether this person believes in you, wants to help you achieve your goals, and will give you the space to be vulnerable. By simply participating in a corporate mentorship program, you both have a shared investment in each other’s personal growth. But two of the most important characteristics of a good mentorship are a willingness to show humility and to practice transparency. That might mean confronting emotions of pain, embarrassment, or remorse—but it also means celebrating moments of great joy, learning, and camaraderie.
There’s a reason why the vast majority of young professionals with mentors indicate they value the relationship, and more than half say mentors contribute to their success: A solid mentor-mentee relationship can boost confidence, positively impact mental health, and even lead to future promotions.
Do you click with this person?
When we talk about chemistry in a relationship, we often frame it as a subconscious decision informed by a host of criteria. But chemistry isn’t really a “decision” at all. It’s an emotion. You sometimes meet someone and feel an instant connection, as if you’ve known them your entire life. You connect with this person in a way that’s hard to put into words; you just “get” each other in a distinct way. In a mentor-mentee relationship, that might manifest as building on each other’s ideas and even finishing each other’s sentences.
After helping numerous leaders grow their corporate mentorship programs, I’ve seen firsthand how building mentorship relationships based on a deeper sense of connection leads to more goal achievement and better career growth. As one example, my company had a junior graphic designer matched with a partner in a different vertical. On paper, they didn’t have much in common. In fact, they had different social groups, different career journeys, and different backgrounds. But because they were able to relate to each other so well, the mentee learned the leadership skills she needed to get a promotion and work under the mentor’s team in three months.
Do you dread meeting up?
I can’t overstate the importance of chemistry in a relationship, especially since it can be startlingly obvious when it’s lacking. As the mentee, a lack of chemistry isn’t your fault or your mentor’s. Many relationships, professional and personal, simply aren’t meant to be.
A mentorship meeting shouldn’t be something you “have to do.” If an upcoming mentorship meetup sends you into a spiral of anxious thinking, that’s a good indicator that you and your mentor might not be a good fit. Yes, working through your goals will be difficult at times, but there’s a difference between dreading the complex path ahead and dreading embarking on that journey with this particular individual.
You should feel energized and inspired by the idea of building your mentorship relationship. So what do you do if you get a knot in your stomach each time you have to meet up for your corporate mentorship program? The idea of breaking up with a mentor might sound incredibly intimidating, but it’s better to be honest now so you can find a mentor you genuinely connect with.
Think through the elements of your relationship that give you pause (and a pit in your stomach) so you can communicate these to your program manager. Then this person can help you end the relationship with your current mentor and also pair you with another mentor with whom you might have a better connection.
Janice Omadeke is CEO and founder of the Mentor Method, an enterprise platform helping Fortune 5000 companies keep and develop diverse talent using the proven power of mentorship.