Older woman mentoring a younger woman

Becoming a Professional Mentor

Proud of your career? It may be time to become a business mentor.

January 2017

If your career has been fulfilling, you may wish to help someone else’s professional advancement. Serving as a professional mentor can be a meaningful and rewarding choice, with long-lasting benefits for you as well as your mentee. You may have had a positive experience with a wise mentor in the past, or you may want to contribute to the future of your industry or community. Many business mentors find the relationship helps them reflect on their own careers and launches them into positive steps for the future. Whatever your motivation, mentoring is often a win-win for all involved.

Finding a mentee

There are several ways to find a young mentee to support. In some cases, the opportunity may fall into your lap—an eager college grad might send you a networking email, or a friend might ask you to share some advice with a contact. You may also be able to arrange mentorships through your alma mater’s career center, your company’s human resources department, an industry networking organization or a local back-to-work charity. First contact with potential mentees often happens via email, but be cautious not to commit to a formal mentorship without having met in person. It’s best to first meet over coffee to make sure you have positive chemistry and shared goals. Keep in mind that your mentee doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in your industry—you could be equally helpful to someone who has a shared experience, such as changing careers, or someone who wants guidance with a skill you’ve mastered, such as networking or public speaking.

Defining the relationship

Have an open conversation with your protégé about mutual expectations. How, when and where will you interact? What subjects will you discuss? What connections will you provide? Will you respond to frequent emails, or will you meet in person for preplanned discussions? Be clear about the limits of your time and connections. Consider, for instance, which roles you are open to: writing letters of reference, arranging in-office shadowing, revising cover letters or providing direct contacts in your company or organization.

At a minimum, a devoted mentor should provide a professional commitment to offer support, encouragement and guidance. Yet there are no limits to how your relationship might creatively develop—and the mutual benefits you may discover.