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Most people understand the benefits of mentorship. Mentorees are happier in their current jobs, have someone to cheer them on, and can take advantage of a more experienced, unbiased opinion about their current situation.
However, it can be challenging to establish a mentoring relationship, even as a virtual mentor. It’s very awkward to simply ask someone to be your mentor, which is why the majority of mentorship relationships develop naturally.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, it can be even more difficult to establish a close professional connection. As an experienced professional, what can you do to be a great mentor — even virtually?
Here are some strategies I’ve found helpful that you can use right away.
Be Aware of the Impact of COVID-19 on Your Mentee
The first step toward being a great mentor during this pandemic is to be aware of how the current environment is impacting your mentee. For instance, do they have loved ones who got ill? Are they concerned about their job or their health?
Any crisis can trigger panic, but COVID-19 has brought on unprecedented uncertainty that has lasted almost an entire year.
In my work with this year, I’ve found it essential to listen more and talk less. As a mentor you’re used to giving advice, but in this type of environment it’s critical to know what’s on the mind of your mentee.
Listen to their concerns and help them work through their fears. In your career, you’ve probably faced times of difficulty and uncertainty. Use those experiences to help your mentee navigate these tough times.
Take Advantage of Technology
Being a virtual mentor is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. Yes, it’s challenging to build the trust online that you can create over coffee, but it also opens the door to new mentorship options.
Look for an online mentor network portal. It’s even better if the portals are free. Use the tools the platform offers to connect with your mentee, schedule meetings, and share additional information.
Then, think about how you can use this to expand your network. Virtual mentorship allows you to impact many more professionals than in-person meetings do. You can even give advice and lead people who are halfway across the world.
At , we work with talents from all over the planet. Being able to use a mentor portal to connect with people in other cities or countries multiplies my impact. Best of all, it takes far less time and money than connecting in person!
How can technology improve your mentorship skills and magnify your influence? COVID-19 has given you the perfect opportunity to experiment!
Be Intentional About Your Professional Relationship
As a mentor, you might rely on informal run-ins to connect with your mentee. During the pandemic, however, everyone has shifted to working from home. Some offices are still not open, or if they are, they aren’t operating at full capacity.
This means that you’ll need to be very intentional about connecting with people, asking how their day or week is going, and offering advice. Because everything is socially distant right now, it might be a good time to create a more formal learning experience for your mentee.
For instance, you might decide to study a business book together, reflect on the lessons offered , or talk about specific topics weekly. Impromptu run-ins in the office may have been an effective way to relate in the past, but today’s business environment requires more intention.
Take Care of Yourself as Well
Mentors are often very focused on helping others, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has been very hard on business leaders as well as other employees. You may be facing more stress now than ever in your career.
This stress might make you want to step back from mentorship relationships for a time. Before you make that decision, see if there are other ways you can take care of yourself.
For instance, are you taking lunch breaks? If not, start now! Even if you just go out to your car and meditate, read a book, or listen to music or a podcast, it’s a necessary break.
Think about what you do at home after the workday as well. Is your evening filled with meetings, or do you get stressed watching the news or interacting on social media? If so, consider unplugging after work so you can relax and recharge.
Finally, consider some strategies that help you feel renewed. Some people enjoy hobbies, while others run or swim.
Take significant blocks of time throughout your week to do these renewing activities. Your work, your team, and your mentee will thank you — and you’ll be glad too!
Being a Virtual Mentor Matters
We’re all going through this COVID-19 crisis together, and being present for each other is as important as ever. Being able to become a virtual mentor not only helps you stay connected now, during this event, but it will give you the chance to expand your influence as a mentor long-term.
Virtual mentorship doesn’t have to be a distant second place to in-person meetings. With the right planning, communication, and intention, it can be a great way to save time and money while continuing to share your expertise with others.
Adam Jacobs is the incredibly busy Managing Director of Bubblegum Casting, and Hunter Talent. He works with some of Australia’s biggest brands, media properties and agencies to secure talented children to work in Television, Film and Modelling roles. They’ve recently launched an office in LA as well.