Take a moment to reminisce on all those strong, encouraging, and powerful mentors who have helped shape your career. These life-changing mentorships may have occurred years ago or just developed yesterday. They may have impacted you over time or suddenly redirected your goals.
The revelations and milestones that propelled me forward on my career path happened over the course of years — thanks to my own career mentor in the information security field.
This field has few women, making it challenging to feel confident. Luckily, my boss and mentor was constantly offering me reasons to believe in myself. He fought for me, gave me promotions even when I didn’t think I could handle a new role, and encouraged me every step of the way.
Without his guidance and help, I wouldn’t have learned critical skills needed to get me where I am today. Unfortunately, only 54 percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors in their career, according to a 2017 study, Leaders and Daughters, by professional services firm Egon Zehnder.
That’s why I firmly believe in paying it forward with my own mentoring.
However, I wouldn’t have always considered myself prepared to take on the duties of mentorship. The question is, how does anyone really know when they’re ready to take on this responsibility?
Here’s a self-evaluation checklist to help you decide if you’re ready:
1. You’re the advice guru
Being a career mentor means opening up your mind and life for others to learn lessons for their own journeys. You need to be prepared to apply your advice specifically to their challenges and career paths.
You may already excel at this and not know it. Consider your relationships — both personal and professional. If your co-workers and friends are constantly knocking down your door for advice, you’re already prepping for mentorship.
This means you have a trusting, non-judgemental nature, which is exactly what a career mentor needs to properly lead a mentee to success. Through this strong advising, you’ll further develop your communication skills to take into your current and future roles.
2. Your emotional intelligence has grown
Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as, “…the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.”
When taking your first career steps, it can be challenging to fully harness your emotional intelligence. Nerves and a heavy-focus on learning the ropes interfere with people’s abilities to harness emotional awareness and help others cheer up or calm down.
Once you’ve settled in, however, your awareness will grow. Eventually, it’ll be easier to not only recognize what others are feeling, but also be completely intune with their emotions. When you notice yourself understanding co-workers’ emotions and offering them guidance or tasks to improve their emotional state, you’re ready to help develop a young mentee.
The wonderful thing about emotional intelligence is that you can continue developing and growing it with each new situation.
3. You’ve settled into your career
It’s impossible to help someone else hit their career goals if you’re not feeling settled in your own role. But being settled doesn’t mean you’ve stopped dreaming and striving to reach your goals.
When you’re feeling empowered — either through an internal feeling or an external sign such as a promotion — and ready to take on the world, it’s the perfect time to evaluate your own career steps and pass on your wisdom to a mentee.
As a career mentor, this evaluation won’t just help those you’re guiding. It will also serve as a directory for where you’re excelling, what needs improved, and how you can push forward to your next promotion like the boss you are.
4. You have time and patience
It’s critical to check-off the above points before deciding to be a career mentor. If you’re feeling confident in each of those but reach this box and don’t feel confident, you’re not ready to guide a mentee.
The combination of time and patience is one of the most important factors when leading a younger employee. You’ll be answering questions that, at this point in your career, may seem novice, but you need to be readily available for mentees to quickly ask job search, interview, and overall career questions.
Genuinely assess how you feel when a current employee or co-worker interrupts your day with a question. If you find it hard to get back on track, feel annoyed, or are then overwhelmed, take a few more months to consider being a career mentor.
However, if you welcome the small interruption and view it as a learning opportunity, it’s time to help the next generation become tomorrow’s leaders.