5 Best Practices for a Successful Mentoring Relationship

Mentoring

By: Iavjot Kaur,

5 Best Practices for a Successful Mentoring Relationship

            Mentoring in professional careers is often employed for the mentee’s growth and development. By building a reciprocal relationship, mentees can learn from their mentors and achieve their goals (Bansal, 2020). However, mentors and mentees are often left unclear by their organization about the role they play in the relationship and how they can mutually benefit from each other (Bansal, 2020). Thus, having a clear set of guidelines can help mentors and mentees achieve their fullest potential. Although mentoring is not a one-size-fits-all, certain practices can help develop a successful mentoring relationship. Hence, the following article will suggest 5 best practices for building a successful mentor-mentee relationship.

Choosing the Right Mentor

            First and foremost, it is important for mentees to choose the right mentor for their career path. Doing research on the mentor can give mentees the head start they need. LinkedIn and other social media would be a good starting place to get a sense of the mentor’s professional career and past experiences (Agarwal, 2018). Instead of simply relying on others’ testimonials, mentees should do their own research to ensure that their mentor has experienced the kind of experiences they have had, including “experiencing the highs and lows to be where [they] want to be in [their] business in a few years’ time” (Agarwal, 2018). If the mentees are working towards a specific position in their business, then they should aim at finding a mentor who is in the same position as the one they are working towards so that the mentor is able to provide them with “more specific and tangible feedback and guidance” (Barbee, 2019). In case a mentee is still figuring out what their goals are and want more advice on creating their ideal career path, then seeking out a career mentor could help them get the specific advice they need (Barbee, 2019).

            If there is a third-party involved in matching mentors with mentees, the first step for mentees and mentors would be to fill out a matching form, which should include the following three components (Mentoring Complete, 2019). Firstly, mentors and mentees should indicate the competencies they want to mentor or be mentored in so that mentors and mentees with the same competencies can be matched (Mentoring Complete, 2019). This can allow both parties to have a focus as they begin their mentoring journey. Secondly, a personality test should be included so that mentors and mentees with compatible personalities can be matched together (Mentoring Complete, 2019). Lastly, a ranking of key roles, such as teacher, counselor and friend, can allow mentees to indicate the type of mentor they are looking for and allow mentors to decide the kind of mentor they want to be (Mentoring Complete, 2019). After the mentors and mentees have completed the form, the matching process can then be facilitated either through manual or software matching (Mentoring Complete, 2019). Manual matching is rather subjective and requires a program managing committee to hash out matches based on the information provided in the matching forms (Mentoring Complete, 2019). However, this can be a time-consuming process as it requires days of discussion to ensure that the right matches are made. On the other hand, a lot of organizations have recently turned towards using online algorithms to ensure a more objective matching (Mentoring Complete, 2019). The use of mentor matching software also saves a lot of time for the mentors, mentees and program managing committee.

Setting Clear Expectations

            Setting clear expectations on the mentee’s goals and the mentoring relationship in the beginning can ensure successful mentoring. If there are no clear expectations on what the mentees’ goals are or what they hope to get out of the mentoring relationship, then it would be difficult for the mentors to figure out what is required of them and what they can do to ensure the mentees’ success (Barbee, 2019). This would lead to both mentees and mentors wasting their time and blindly continuing with their mentoring relationship without a clear path ahead (Barbee, 2019). Therefore, it is essential to “clarify the mentee’s expectations for the mentor-mentee relationship and their needs related to career advancement” (Michigan State University, 2019). This could be done by establishing clear expectations for the mentoring relationship, including “time commitment, meeting schedule, and ground rules” (Michigan State University, 2019). A mentor can also be expected to share their knowledge, guidance, perspective and network with their mentees in a friendly yet professional environment (Qooper Mentoring Software, 2018). However, ultimately, it is up to the mentee to decide what to do with the mentor’s input (Qooper Mentoring Software, 2018).

Establishing Clear Boundaries

            An effective mentor-mentee relationship requires a professional relationship (Khidekel, 2019). As mentors and mentees become closer and the relationship grows, lines can become blurred and there is a risk of mixing personal with professional life (Barbee, 2019). A mentoring session could then turn into a rant session about things going not so well in the mentee’s personal life (Barbee, 2019). Although personal issues might be “a part of the deal in the mentoring relationship” as sometimes personal life could affect one’s professional life, there is a risk of making the mentor uncomfortable by sharing too much personal information if such boundaries had not been clearly defined (Barbee, 2019). To prevent this from happening, it is best to establish clear boundaries in the beginning of the relationship as to what is and is not acceptable to talk about in the mentoring sessions. Moreover, boundaries need to be established in terms of contacting the mentors. At the beginning of a new mentoring relationship, mentors should clearly communicate about how they can be reached, especially in terms of the modes of communication and the mentor’s working hours (Khidekel, 2019). Without setting such boundaries, the mentee runs the risk of contacting the mentor outside of office hours, thus crossing the lines of their personal and professional lives.

Establishing Mentee’s Goals

            In the beginning, a mentoring session should be dedicated to understanding the mentee’s needs and goals (Qooper Mentoring Software, 2018). According to Bansal (2020), “a mentor-mentee relationship that’s based on ad hoc needs without establishing clear goals does not last long”. Thus, the mentee has to first “list down the goals that they wish to achieve with the mentor’s help” (Bansal, 2020). Then, a plan for both the mentee’s short-term and long-term goals should be created, and a timeframe has to be set by the mentee and mentor to achieve those goals (Bansal, 2020). As it might sometimes take a few tries before the desired results are achieved, both parties should hold each other accountable and should not give up when faced with multiple difficulties and setbacks (Bansal, 2020). After establishing goals, it is important to monitor the progress and check-in with one another to see how the mentoring relationship is going (Barbee, 2019). Barbee (2019) asserts that regular check-ins between mentors and mentees can help to “evaluate and assess the goals, where they started, where they see this going and make adjustments if needed”.

Effective Communication

            Effective communication is the key to making the partnership between mentors and mentees work as it not only establishes trust and credibility but also provides a clear understanding of the mentee’s goals and expectations (Agarwal, 2018). In the beginning, the preferred mode of communication and office hours with the mentor should be clearly established. Apart from this, the mentee should be proactive in tracking and communicating progress towards their goals with their mentors (Bansal, 2010). A mentee should also take the initiative to prepare for each meeting and create an agenda in advance so as to make the most out of the mentoring session (Agarwal, 2018). This can help the session to remain focused on the assistance the mentee really needs from their mentor and will allow them to ask their mentors specific questions to help them achieve their goals (Khidekel, 2019). After each meeting, it is also recommended for mentees to summarize the discussion and action items to send to the mentor for their future reference (Bansal, 2010).

On the other hand, the mentor should come prepared to guide their mentee and impart wisdom and knowledge (Agarwal, 2018). During the discussion, “the mentor should be open, direct and provide an objective perspective” (Agarwal, 2018). Apart from holding the mentee accountable and reminding them of their goals, the mentor should also offer positive yet sincere feedback to keep the mentee motivated (Agarwal, 2018). The mentor should aim at providing “a non-judgmental and non-biased platform where the mentee feels comfortable discussing their business ideas without fear” (Agarwal, 2018). If the mentor feels the time is right, then they can also challenge and encourage their mentee to step out of their comfort zone and take risks (Agarwal, 2018). Such communication strategies employed by the mentor can help to build a strong foundation with the mentee.

References

Agarwal, P. (2018, August 28). Top Tips for a Successful Mentor-Mentee Relationship.

Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/08/26/top-tips-for-a-successful-mentor-mentee-relationship/?sh=a45eb602fb19

Bansal, V. (2020, October 15). Mentorship: Key to Effective Mentor and Mentee

Relationship. Tech Hello. https://www.techtello.com/mentor-mentee-relationship/

Barbee, C. M. (2019). 9 Guidelines to Ensure Your Mentor-Mentee Relationship is

Successful. The CEO Co. https://theceo.co/9mentorshiptips/

Khidekel, M. (2019, March 29). 12 Keys for a Successful Mentor-Mentee Relationship.

Thrive Global. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/tips-wisdom-successful-professional-mentor-mentee-relationship/

Mentoring Complete. (2019). Making Successful Matches Between Mentors and Mentees.

https://www.get.mentoringcomplete.com/blog/bid/113690/how-do-you-make-a-successful-match-between-a-mentor-and-mentoree

Michigan State University. (2019). Best Practices for Mentors and Mentees in Academic

Settings. https://aan.msu.edu/mentoring/best-practices-for-mentors-and-mentees-in-academic-settings/

Qooper Mentoring Software. (2018, December 7). 8 Good Practices for Both Mentors and

Mentees in an Ideal Mentoring Relationship. Medium.

https://medium.com/@qooper/8-good-practices-for-both-mentors-and-mentees-in-an-ideal-mentoring-relationship-12b37b7dba5a

5 Most In-Demand Career Skills in 2021

In Demand Skill Sets 2021

By: Iavjot Kaur,

5 Most In-Demand Career Skills in 2021

With the job market constantly evolving, some occupations lose popularity while others gain an edge. Although it is hard to say for sure which jobs would be in demand or be obsolete in the future, having certain essential skills can make all the difference in your career regardless of the field you are in. By having some of the most in-demand hard and soft skills in today’s job market, it can give you the competitive edge you need over your counterparts to ensure your path to success. According to Anderson (2020), “hard skills concern an employee’s ability to do a specific task, and soft skills are more about the way they do them — how they adapt, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions”. In view of this, the following article will suggest 5 hard and soft skills to make yourself more desirable and marketable and to increase your chances of landing that perfect job.

            The most sought-after hard skills include specialized knowledge and technical abilities in the following 2 aspects: cloud and distributed computing, and data analysis (Anderson, 2020; FutureLearn, 2020).

Cloud and Distributed Computing

            This particular skill is in demand because employers want employees “who can deliver and manage resources via the internet and a communication network” (Business News Daily, 2020). Due to the increased demand for accessing readily available information, the development of cloud and distributed computing has spurred to allow individuals and businesses to use “remote network servers to store, process, and manage data all over the Internet” (Collabera, 2020). Being an integral part of the IT infrastructure for many companies around the world, employers want individuals who can seamlessly implement a cloud environment into their infrastructure (Dsouza, 2018). Moreover, to overcome the constraints of traditional software and hardware licensing models, businesses are looking for employees who are capable of delivering services to customers via the Internet using cloud computing (DeZyre, 2021). On the other hand, employers are also looking for individuals to operate distributed computing which is a system that solves one single problem by breaking it down into several tasks where one individual computer solves one task (DeZyre, 2021). Companies want employees who can “add and change software and computational power according to the demands and needs of the business” (Dsouza, 2018). Thus, cloud and distributed computing is a highly valued skill as it can help organizations to not only reduce risks but also costs (DeZyre, 2011).

Data Analysis

            Living in an age of big data, data is now being harvested at a big scale that has never been seen before (FutureLearn, 2020). It is “used for everything from improving industrial processes to keeping shelves stacked to accurately targeting digital ads” (FutureLearn, 2020). It is no wonder that the World Economic Forum predicts data to be one of the key drivers of economic growth in the near future (FutureLearn, 2020). Accordingly, research has found that “those who are able to organize data collection, interpret the results, and make decisions based on these findings will be in high demand” (FutureLearn, 2020). Although one might assume that data analysis is only relevant in professions like business analysis and data science, it is in fact a skill required across all professions. Various professions across different fields, such as farmers and doctors, would need to make use of data in order to make the best possible decision (FutureLearn, 2020). However, as of right now, studies have found that there is a skills gap in terms of data literacy (FutureLearn, 2020). Accenture and Qlik’s research have found that over 74% of the employees would prefer not to work with data and this causes companies to “lose 43% of productivity per employee due to a lack of data literacy every year” (FutureLearn, 2020). In light of this, PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that almost 70% of employers will demand data literacy for their employees by 2021 (FutureLearn, 2020). Therefore, it is advisable to gain some data analysis skills to boost your employability in the current and future job markets.

            On the other hand, the most in-demand soft skills demonstrating an employee’s personal traits and cognitive skills are critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and cultural awareness (Anderson, 2020).

Critical Thinking

            According to Guerrouj (2020), “critical thinking skills are mental processes we use to analyse facts to form a judgement”. These thinking skills could involve problem-solving, decision making, categorization of information and objective analysis among many others (Guerrouj, 2020). Contrary to the popular belief, critical thinking is in fact not an automatic thought process as we are inherently programmed to think “uncritically”, making decisions subjectively based on our personal biases, self-interest or emotions (Mendes, 2020). As a result, one needs critical thinking skills to be able to make impactful decisions in the workplace by thinking critically (Guerrouj, 2020). There are a lot of ways critical thinking skills can be adapted to address the needs of the ever-changing modern workplace. For instance, as creativity is emphasised in a lot of workplaces, “a person with critical thinking skills can come up with innovative ideas and solutions to complex problems using logic and reason” (Guerrouj, 2020). To solve problems in a workplace, one could also first observe a situation, list the pros and cons and then decide on the best solution to deal with the problem (Guerrouj, 2020). It is also predicted for employees with critical thinking skills to be assigned the task of dividing teams and tasks between humans and machines in the future workplace (Guerrouj, 2020). As critical thinking skills often come in all sizes and shapes, your university degree can already give you some experience in dealing with certain types of information depending on the subject you are studying (Guerrouj, 2020). For instance, students studying English Literature often have to “read texts critically to form a qualitative argument or analyse the reliability of sources” whereas Engineering students have to “use the quantitative results from models to further their experiments or research projects” (Guerrouj, 2020). Therefore, depending on your education, you might already possess certain critical thinking skills. However, if you are aiming at a certain position in your workplace, then you would need to acquire the critical thinking skills needed for that particular profession. For example, a manager would need to use critical thinking skills to “foster teams that are intentional about accessing problems and devising problems” (Guerrouj, 2020).

Emotional Intelligence

            Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ), refers to the “ability to know, handle, and fully understand your emotions, including that of other individuals around you” (Siragusa, 2019). Leaders with high emotional intelligence are often aware of how their positive or negative emotions could affect other employees (Siragusa, 2019). Being one of the most frequently referenced skills in the current and future job markets, high emotional intelligence could be seen as one of the most “reliable predictors of career success and salary levels” (Siragusa, 2019). To cultivate emotional intelligence, one needs to be empathetic (Siragusa, 2019). One should not only possess the capacity to understand their own feelings but also those of others as it often impacts one’s actions and decision-making (Siragusa, 2019). One should “show humility in giving and receiving feedback, are reliable and committed to helping others, and willing to apologise and to forgive when necessary” (Siragusa, 2019). These qualities can help one work well in collaborative environments, reduce stress and get the best results from all the stakeholders (Siragusa, 2019). In fact, the way people view work itself is changing (Jenkins, 2020). As Gen Z has the highest prevalence of mental illnesses and feelings of loneliness compared to other age groups, companies need to adapt to the emotional needs of their younger employees (Jenkins, 2020). Considering the youth is the future, acknowledging the importance of their employees’ mental wellbeing is crucial for all employers (Jenkins, 2020).

Cultural Awareness

            As workplaces become more diverse, cultivating cultural awareness should be a top priority for companies all over the world (Landry, 2018). Since cultural awareness affects “how teams collaborate and interact, and makes for a more inclusive, productive environment”, all employees are expected to have cultural diversity skills and cultural intelligence (Landry, 2018). Landry (2018) recommends  “unpacking the different layers and nuances of culture” to cultivate awareness to understand not only “the role you play in your organisation, but also the role your team members and organization plays to the world”. Goodman (2018) also suggests to “understand one’s self and how one needs to adjust to the environment and ecosystem that he or she is in” to become more culturally aware (as cited in Landry, 2018).  Since all individuals have the tendency to form stereotypes, whether it is based on one’s past experiences or one’s own set of beliefs, uncovering those stereotypes and acknowledging one’s bias can help them become “a stronger, more effective communicator and employee” (Landry, 2018). At the same time, it is also valuable for a leader to “understand, respect, and work harmoniously with people of a different race, culture, age, gender, language or sexual orientation” (Landry, 2018). Adapting to others with different perceptions of viewing the world can not only promote teamwork in an organization but can also help employees and employers to come up with ideas that drive new products or services in today’s globalised world (Landry, 2018).

References

Anderson, B. (2020, January 9). The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2020.

LinkedIn. https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2020/most-in-demand-hard-and-soft-skills

Business News Daily. (2020, May 5). What Employers Want: 38 In-Demand Skills.

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5686-the-most-in-demand-career-skills.html

Collabera. (2020). Will Cloud Computing Change IT Jobs?

DeZyre. (2021, January 25). Cloud Computing vs. Distributed Computing.

https://www.dezyre.com/article/cloud-computing-vs-distributed-computing/94

Dsouza, M. (2018, November 7). What is Distributed Computing and What’s Driving Its

Adoption. https://hub.packtpub.com/what-is-distributed-computing-and-whats-driving-its-adoption/

FutureLearn. (2020, June 15). 7 Skills Employers of the Future will be Looking For.

https://www.futurelearn.com/info/blog/careers/7-skills-employers-of-the-future-will-be-looking-for

Guerrouj, L. (2020, July 7). Critical Thinking Skills for the Future of Work. Salesforce.

https://www.salesforce.com/eu/blog/2020/07/critical-thinking-skills-future-work.html#:~:text=A%20person%20with%20critical%20thinking,problems%20using%20logic%20and%20reason.&text=In%20the%20future%20workplace%2C%20people,tasks%20between%20humans%20and%20machines

Jenkins, R. (2020, July 13). 5 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence is the Future of Work.

Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/352884

Landry, L. (2018, January 18). The Importance of Cultivating Cultural Awareness at Work.

Northeastern University. https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/cultural-awareness-at-work/

Mendes, J. (2020). Why Critical Thinking Skills are Important in the Workplace.

ZipRecruiter. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/blog/why-critical-thinking-skills-are-important-in-theworkplace/#:~:text=The%20reason%20critical%20thinking%

20is,simplistic%20thinking%E2%80%94it’s%20human%20nature 

Siragusa, T. (2019, October 23). How Emotional Intelligence Can Shape the Future of Work.

Medium. https://medium.com/radical-culture/how-emotional-intelligence-can-shape-the-future-of-work-95d4e3499ffe

Five ways to boost engagement when delivering online learning (as demonstrated by Ulster University Business School and Irish Times Training)

Online Study

By: Susan HayesCulleton

Overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed educational systems across the world. Like other educators, I was challenged to rapidly adapt educational programmes for remote teaching and virtual learning to ensure the continuation of high-quality learning experiences for students.

Rather than a sense of dread and a feeling of “now I will have to compete against Facebook and email for my students’ attention”, my mind started buzzing with ideas about how we could lever the power of so many tools to increase engagement and accelerate the learning journey.

By collaborating with Ulster University’s Office for Digital Learning, I was initially able to explore the functionalities of the virtual learning environment. Since I had access to top quality tools within the online Blackboard system and had already moved towards a blended learning approach, we could make that shift immediately and without an ounce of stress.

I’ve been a Recognised University Teacher at Ulster University Business School [UUBS] for the last four cohorts of the Springboard PgC Global Capital Markets programme and an Executive Education trainer at Irish TimesTraining for ten years. The two organisations partnered to offer this Springboard course for a cross-border, university accredited, locally delivered learning experience and I have worked closely with the UUBS course team to deliver teaching, learning and assessment.

Within my own business, I had already been exploring the opportunities of online, interactive learning.  In 2019, we set up “Active Peers at BECKSearch” to offer trainers and L&D professionals modules of exciting, peer-driven learning activities. We’ve worked with professional services firms, startups in the educational space, incubation centres, industry organisations and online communities. I knew I could use this experience and our technology to bring co-operation, learning and engagement to my students at UUBS.

One of the main concerns about developing online content is the level of planning and preparation required and the fear that results will be short-lived.  Over the past four semesters, I have developed twelve new peer learning activities for my students at Ulster University where it’s the students themselves doing most of the work as they learn and revise. This allows the lecturer to focus on adding value where it really matters and gives you the opportunity to “correct” incorrect assumptions before you see them on an assessment.

In this article, I want to give you five key ways that you can dramatically grow engagement in a highly active way for students while they learn from each other. I’ve shared examples from my experience, but you can apply them in your own domain of expertise. These activities have helped my students improve their overall results by 5% in comparison to previous groups taking the same course. Over this time, we’ve also crowdsourced a bank of 220 questions, a glossary of over 100 terms and ten study aids.

We have put together short step-by-step guides and built templates for you so that you can implement these ideas at your convenience at:

profile or LinkedIn page, please do reach out to us as we’re happy to feature great ideas.