3 best practices for effective mentorships

At Code PaLOUsa 2019, consultant Tamay Shannon discussed the benefits of mentoring and how to be an effective mentor.

How mentorship benefits both the mentor and mentee At Code PaLOUsa 2019, Tamay Shannon talks with TechRepublic about the major benefits of mentoring.

Mentorship can be extremely impactful for working professionals, across industries. Whether it's mentorship programs for women in tech, an employee helping a new hire acclimate to their new job or location, or managers guiding co workers out of their imposter syndrome, mentors are proven to be useful resources.   

SSEE: Transgender employees in tech: Why this "progressive" industry has more work to do to achieve true gender inclusivity (TechRepublic cover story)

Mentors can not only help people in their current fields, but help those looking to break into a new one, said Tamay Shannon, consultant at WS2, in her Code PaLOUsa 2019 session. 

Before considering becoming a mentor, however, the professional must consider if they are ready for that responsibility: "Don't lie to yourself about yourself," Shannon said. "If you're unwilling to do the mentoring or work to help someone, don't feel bad about it, but just don't do it." 

"You can change positions," she said. "You might start out wanting to mentor somebody, and do something else. You can pick and choose with what's going on in your life right now."

However, everyone should consider mentorship, because the process isn't only beneficial to the mentee. For managers, in particular, mentorship is a great opportunity for professional development, which is one of the factors that leads to a strong manager

"Set your intentions from the start," Shannon noted. "Just because you're helping someone else, doesn't mean you can't get anything out of it. You can learn to be more empathetic, learn how to take feedback, learn how to provide advice, etc."

Three best practices for mentoring

Shannon offered the following three best practices for those interested in becoming mentors. 

1. Mindset

Mentors need to be a mentor to their subjects' mindsets, Shannon said. An easy way to do this is by sharing your own experiences, as it makes the mentee not feel isolated or unaffirmed. 

Using tech as an example, Shannon suggested that the mentor can say, "Javascript is crazy, you are not." This statement helps the mentee feel better about themselves and direct negative energy in another direction. 

2. Technical

Mentors must also support the technical side of the mentee's experience. Continuing with the tech industry as an example, Shannon said, "You can help them make their code more understandable. You can suggest adding comments to code that they can go back to; this helps them master the thought process of being an engineer." 

No matter the industry, mentors can offer tips for how to learn and retain knowledge concerning different aspects of the industry. The mentor is the experienced one, so they should offer advice based on their own experiences, Shannon added. 

3. Big Up

Shannon's "Big Up," refers to the mentor singing the praises of the mentee—always lifting them up. 

"Suggest your mentee for upcoming projects," Shannon said. "Tell people they are doing good work. Make sure you are an advocate for that person behind closed doors. Make sure their name is constantly being heard." 

How to be a mentor, without the responsibility 

Just because a person can't dedicate the time to be a mentor doesn't mean they can't act as a mentor in other ways, Shannon said. One way to do this is through co-signing, which is a realm of mentorship. 

"Co-signing is when you amplify someone's voice." Shannon said. "It's like a public Big Up. The person supports the other person publicly, providing a space where they feel like they can belong and get their ideas out there." 

Another way to help is by "throwing money at it," Shannon added. 

"If you're not willing to commit to something, but you think it's important, donate to a cause or support a conference for that cause," Shannon said. 

For more, check out How to become a connected leader: 4 key factors on TechRepublic. 

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