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Mentoring Conversations

To be a mentor can be a rewarding experience indeed, but it can also be a challenging one. A mentee may have issues for which they seek a quick fix but the journey could be a long and arduous one, are mentees ready to stick it out and reap the benefits eventually? Conversations between mentor and mentee are vital, as it helps build bonds and grow the relationship. Talking and listening, sharing your life experiences and being vulnerable is what makes difficult conversations seem not so hard. Mentors and mentees can create a beautiful relationship through meaningful interactions and consistent connect and engagement.

On Sunday 6th November 2022 an online session was conducted for mentors to share their journey and experiences on mentoring and also gain insights from their fellow mentors. Case studies were shared based on situations that have been communicated and topics the mentors wanted inputs on.

1. Time Constraints:

My mentee has his plate full, studying, working on weekends and is not able to find time for meetings. Mentees work and study hence the time constraint. How do we plan meetings and how do we get mentees to open up and take the lead to fix meetings?

· Create the energy to meet: Our message to them should not be one of compliance, having a meeting every month but more of interest and involvement.

· Focus on the agenda of the mentee: To make a success of the mentoring experience, the mentor needs to give importance to the mentee's needs, goals, plans etc.

· Sometimes no agenda, no judgment: Create a comfortable and safe space for the mentee. Let them know that you are not there to judge them and with no agenda but theirs, they will slowly open up and then there is no stopping them.

· Persistence pays: Find that time slot that works. If not Saturday, then Sunday, if not earlier then later in the day, if not one place, then another. Go for an early morning walk, breakfast or late evening dinner but keep the family in the know, a strange time but it could work for some. Find that one spot that works.

· Finding novel ways to meet up: Walking the dogs, taking a bicycle ride, a visit to the zoo, long walks by the seaside. a pottery workshop etc. These are things that mentors have done with their mentees, making for a different and enjoyable experience.

2. Change of priorities of mentees: Take Charge meetings may not be high on their list. Their priorities have changed.

· Creating a mentoring agreement: Everything is spelled out in the first meeting as this would make it easier to work around the difficulties that come up in scheduling and attending future meetings. What to expect? Communication, messages, calls, manage time constraints, good places to meet, kind of preparation, hot buttons, staying on track...

· Adjust meetings according to your mentee’s agenda: Pick a time that is best suited to the mentee either in the morning or evening, taking into account work/ college schedules etc. Once a month this would work. Take turns alternatively in fixing the meeting between mentor and mentee. Do not always think it is the mentor’s responsibility. Encourage your mentee to be proactive in this endeavor.

· Plan meetings in advance: At the previous meeting plan for the next meeting. This ensures that the following month's meeting is held as scheduled. If something else that’s urgent should come up, reschedule a few days prior to the meet.

· Connect and share in-between meetings: Share interesting information, WhatsApp small messages to keep the connection alive and take interest in the mentee’s life through an active engagement. This will keep the mentee enthused and energised. You could follow your mentee on Instagram and show interest in their posts.

· Voluntary engagement: This is voluntary for both mentor and mentee. We cannot be forceful or cohesive. Work on the relationship, it can be effective if expectations are set and met.

· Proximity of the meeting venue: If both mentor and mentee are in the vicinity, meet-ups become so much easier. Most of the pairing has been done keeping this criterion in mind.

3. My mentee is sorted: Often a mentee who seems sorted may be an introvert and would need time to open up. A mentee who seems sorted may be anxious or not feel safe to share. Create an atmosphere of trust and safety.

How much of yourself have you shared with your mentee? Be human, be vulnerable, open up to them and they will open up to you.

4. Importance of listening: Sometimes all the mentee wants is a person who will listen to them without being judgemental, will be empathetic in understanding their problem and will help

to work things out.

5. Involvement of parents: If parents are being involved always do so in the presence of the mentee and maintain transparency. Create a safe space for communication.

6. Number of sessions: I find it difficult to stay connected with my mentee only through a monthly session. Can I have more than one session per month?

You are most welcome to have multiple sessions a month if this would help strengthen the relationship and build better connections. It is however vital that at least one session per month happens, if not in person then at least online, although in person sessions create better bonding and connection.

7. How do I know my mentoring sessions are going well? What are the criteria for evaluation?

Mentoring involves an investment in time and effort. Some mentees may take time to open up, even upto 6 months, while others may feel comfortable to share just after a session or two. The bonding and connection would help you understand how the relationship is shaping up.

The best indicator is ‘if your mentee is chasing you’, only after you have established a connection. It means they are finding value in mentoring. Don’t set the bar too high, often mentors put pressure on themselves by doing this. Frequently, the mentee is happy with the way things are going but as a mentor you may feel differently.

Be someone to your mentee, who you needed when you were young. Put yourself in your mentee’s shoes. Sometimes for 3 to 6 months you feel nothing is happening, then all of a sudden there is a break- through. Be patient. Often you will discover that the mentor gains as much from the relationship as the mentee.

Thanking all our mentors who joined this session, for sharing their insights, being vulnerable and helping others in their mentoring journey.

Sharon Pires


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