Take a minute to think about the best mentor you’ve ever had. It could have been a colleague, a parent, your friend, a coach, or your high school teacher.
You reach a point in your life where you have the chance to do the same for someone else. Now as senior in medical school, I have had many opportunities to help younger students. It has been an exciting journey where I learnt about my teaching styles and develop my leadership skills as a mentor. In this blog, I will share some of the things I learnt about a successful mentor-mentee relationship that I had learnt and received feedback from my audience.
Firstly, we need to understand what a mentor means. For me, its someone who is approachable, knowledgeable and has the resources to help you reach your potential. Its all about keeping your mentees best interests in mind and delivering support in a way that makes sense to them.
- Introduction is key – I recommend always having a session where you talk about yourself and your background. This helps your mentees know about you and create a connection with them. Make sure to also ask about your mentees and their interests and expectations.
2. Ask questions – Look out for clarity and search for what their concerns and expectations are. You want to help them on the path of self-discovery without them being dependent on you. Teach them that it is ok to ask questions, reflect on their situations and the choices they are making. As a mentor, our job is to provide them with tools to help them become independent and successful in whatever path they choose to take.
3. Sharing ideas – One of my biggest worries when doing one-to-one sessions was becoming dominant in the conservation. However, I realised that once you establish a comfortable environment, both you and the mentee work as a team to share and value each other’s opinions. Our job is not to dictate what they should do or shouldn’t do, instead we offer suggestions when they face situations that need our advice. We need to act as a sounding board for many of their ideas. Listening is very important and having the patience to hear their thought process. Sometimes, that is enough for them to see what they want to do in their career path and beyond. Sharing your opinions can broaden their perspective and view options that they didn’t consider before.
4. Sympathy and empathy – Sharing your stories on similar situations and how you delt with it is a great way to show that you understand what your mentees are going through. It makes them seem that they are not alone and helps them navigate through these challenges. Personally, it helped me connect with them better by showing a more vulnerable side of myself. Sharing my failures, struggles and finding resilience was a way to encourage them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t forget to be compassionate when listening to them and understand your mentee’s viewpoint.
5. Bring them out of their shell – As mentors, we are not expected to have solutions to all of the mentee’s problems nor should we just agree with everything they say. Instead, we need to dig deeper into what the mentee is saying, maybe challenging their assumptions and bringing them out of their comfort zone. To find the root of the problem, you have to peel away the layers from the start. Which means we have to keep asking ‘why’ multiple times to your mentee’s response until they themselves realise what the solution is. We guide them to be more independent and reason within themselves for self-discovery
Mentoring someone is not only beneficial for the mentee but is as rewarding for us mentors. It is a wonderful experience where we also learn about ourselves and develop confidence and communication skills to become a better teacher.