As a manager, you are at a point in your career where you have experienced success and can share your learnings with others. This is the first step to becoming a mentor, so congratulations! Finding success as a mentor is another story.
This guide will help you by explaining:
- Why managers should learn how to mentor junior engineers
- How to get started as a mentor
- What junior engineers look for in a mentor
- How to find the right junior engineer to mentor
- Tips for a successful mentorship
Why Managers Should Mentor Junior Engineers
It’s simple. If you work with engineers within your organization, then you’ll be creating more helpful, satisfied employees. If you work outside your organization, then you’ll be increasing your professional network and building relationships with potential future hires. Either way, being a good mentor is important to your career and satisfaction as much as it is for the person you’re mentoring.
A 2009 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that mentor relationships “enhance helping behavior, situational satisfaction and attachment, and interpersonal relationships, … job performance and deterring withdrawal behavior.” You can develop your interpersonal and communication skills, which are not part of the learned skill set for more engineering programs, while you strengthen your network and company.
How to Get Started as a Mentor
Set yourself up for success by knowing what a productive mentor relationship looks like. Another NCBI study and countless articles identify the important features of a successful mentoring relationship: defined goals and expectations, respect for each other, equal commitment and reciprocity, shared values, and empathy.
Elements of a successful mentor relationship:
- Clear expectations
- Shared values
- Mutual respect
- Personal connection
Elements of a poor mentor relationship:
- Personality differences
- Lack of commitment
- Competition - real or perceived
- Poor communication
- Mentor is inexperienced
This determines if you are ready to mentor, who you should mentor, and how you should mentor. Worried about lack of experience or poor communication skills? We recommend that managers first reach out and find a mentor of your own. It will increase the likelihood that you are prepared to mentor, enhance your skill set, and build your network amongst your peers and those who are where you want to go. When you do start mentoring, you will continue to learn from mentees as you work to together to create opportunities and tackle challenges.
What Junior Engineers Need in a Mentor
Who should mentor junior engineers:
- Someone they respect and trust
- Someone who listens and lets them talk openly
- Someone willing to offer constructive criticism
- Someone who prioritizes mentee's goals
- Someone committed to progress and meeting regularly
- Someone with experience who creates opportunities
- Someone who they connect with personally
These are traits that you can grow into as you mentor. To be successful, keep these ideals in mind as you offer guidance and advice to your mentees.
What Managers Need in a Mentee
It is just as important for you to find a mentee with the best qualities. When picking who you would like to work with as a mentor, look for junior engineers that are proactive, interesting to you, and respectful of your time and advice.
Which junior engineers make the best mentees:
- They know their career goals
- They show promise professionally and personally
- They show interest in learning and feedback
- They have the confidence to drive the agenda and schedule meetings
- They are good listeners
- They are prepared
- They are respectful of timelines and follow through on promises
10 Tips for a Successful Mentorship
Follow these guidelines curated for you from top research and business articles focused on creating the best mentor relationships.
- Set goals for what you both want to accomplish. Express your goals clearly and openly to help set expectations at the beginning.
- Know their weaknesses. Find out their limitations as early as possible. Your work as a mentor will be helping them strengthen these. Warn them of potential pitfalls that most inexperienced engineers make.
- Encourage them to create a network of mentors. This will help them gain perspective and will decrease the chance of burnout in the relationship from asking too much from one person.
- Be accessible. This is more important in success than you would think and can be as simple as emailing and calling when you can’t meet in person.
- Listen more than you speak. Really focus on what they’re saying to you and ask good questions. This will build empathy and prepare you to present your point of view.
- Be a guide and not a supervisor. Avoid telling them how to do something. Tactical advice or micromanaging isn’t as helpful as offering your experience in similar situations and getting them to consider their options.
- Build models and frameworks. Teach them the questions they should ask to problems and their causes. This will allow them to apply their knowledge throughout their career, not just one time.
- Challenge them to push outside their comfort zone. Failure and calculated risks are part of being an engineer. Focus on giving them constructive criticism that helps them learn from their mistakes.
- Be their advocate. A big part of being a mentor is opening the right doors for your mentee. If they want you to recommend them but you don’t feel comfortable, give candid feedback about what they need to work on for you to make the introduction.
- Remind them of the big picture. Encourage mentees to target opportunities to avoid burnout. A failure to prioritize can lead them to neglect other areas of their lives. An imbalance will begin to affect their career long-term and be counterproductive.
Every Manager Should Work to Become a Great Mentor
Just like being a great engineer, being a helpful mentor is a continuous process. Start off as a mentee, then take your learnings into your first mentorship. You’ll learn more with every new mentor relationship. Make sure you both have the same level of commitment and shared career values. The mentee should drive the agenda and you should help them build the frameworks they need to find success. This requires a lot of communication and interpersonal skill, which is a powerful tool for every manager. You will both benefit by growing your networks and gaining experience in solving problems.
Let us know something helpful a past mentor did for you in the comments.
More teams are using Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, and Social tools to speed up product development. Independent analyst firm, Consilia Vektor, explains how this changes Product Data Management (PDM) as you know it and how this can help your team work smarter.