Here are a few mentoring fundamentals to boost your career

A person often becomes a mentor when they want to give something back

David Rigby
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After presenting at a recent conference, when I was asked whether I would rather have a mentor or a coach, I said the latter.

Though I am qualified in both, the benefits of choosing for yourself far outweighs learning by sitting next to an expert. Ideally you could choose a mentor with very strong coaching skills, or second-best, a coach with experience in the topics you want to be mentored in.


At its most basic, a coach will enable you to decide what to do, whereas a mentor with tell you what to do. A person often becomes a mentor when they want to give something back, or perhaps they want to have the experience of mentoring. It is about sharing knowledge, while coaching is about solving problems.

Being a business mentor is not:

• telling stories starting with: "When I was your age…."
• overcrowding the mentee’s brain with too much information
• not listening
• insisting the mentee does things the mentor’s way

A better approach is to

• watch what the mentee does, then show or say how it may be improved
• respond to mentee requests, and if not possible, find someone who can
• acknowledge when you do not know the answer
• signpost to others when you are not sure you know
• advise on issues that the client may not know about
• take your mentee to events to meet useful people

What you should not expect from your mentor:

• to do for you things you cannot be bothered with, otherwise you will never learn
• to know the answers to everything
• expect him to advise on personal issues or personal finance
• to know how current technology works
• to depend on the mentee for income
• to take responsibility for your decisions, because he or she is offering advice, not instruction
• to be grateful every time you turn up or do something he or she suggests
• for the relationship to last forever

What you should not expect from your mentee:

• to do what you say
• to turn up for meetings - either on time or at all - and reschedule at the last minute
• to be your friend
• for the relationship to last forever
• to be a technology whizz
• to be your mentor too

Not anyone can be a mentor or mentee. There needs to be chemistry. Often the mentor is older than the mentee, but it need not be the case. Sometimes older people need mentoring in technology. A mentee might be happy with email, LinkedIn and Facebook, but potential customers might prefer Pinterest, Instagram and Whatsapp.

Whichever role you choose, make sure you start off with a good understanding, let the relationship develop with time, and allow for it to run its course. With good fortune, whether as a mentor or mentee, it can be an opportunity to mutually share good times and learn.

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