Professionals who work remotely worry about not having the same mentorship opportunities as colleagues working in the office. But don’t worry! Remote mentoring looks different for people on both sides of the relationship, and in many ways, it’s easier, too. Just like the in-person version, remote mentoring helps new professionals find direction and realize their potential.
Why mentoring matters more than ever
When you’re starting your career or attempting to take it to the next level, the path forward can feel murky. This is even truer when you work remotely. Without the cues and conversations of leaders physically around you, remote employees, and early career professionals, in particular, can feel out of sight and mind to important decision makers. The unintentional learning from overhearing others’ phone calls and conversations is lessened with distanced working. It’s also challenging for younger employees to make and maintain “weak ties” (i.e., acquaintances in the office with potential for friendship, career influence, etc.).
The good news is that none of these challenges are insurmountable with intentionality and a mentorship plan.
When your organizational culture encourages mentoring, employees are more confident and motivated about growth opportunities. A positive mentoring relationship helps employees feel like valuable members of their workplace and professional community. They feel more connected, engaged, and loyal.
Mentors shorten a new professional’s learning curve by answering their questions and helping them understand “unspoken rules.” They offer mentees a healthy challenge to their self-image, helping them to see themselves as others do. Mentors illuminate the different paths to where they can go, what steps to take, skills to develop, and knowledge to gain. They act as a sounding board, offer guidance, show possibilities, and provide inspiration.
A new kind of mentoring
Finding a mentor used to be intimidating. It was a bigger ask to meet for coffee as that meant leaving the office for a few hours. Now, everyone is used to connecting remotely. Asking for a 20-to-30-minute Zoom call is far easier for mentors to fit into their busy lives. With remote mentorship, your mentor options are limitless because you can find a mentor anywhere in the world, even someone with specific experience or expertise. You can have multiple mentors since it’s easier to fit them into your life, too.
Finding a remote mentor
You have work to do before starting your search. Figure out your goals for the relationship and the questions you have for mentors. Be ready to show mentors you’re working on you, too. Practice self-awareness by learning your strengths through reflection. List out your specific areas for growth. Evaluate what is needed in order to achieve this growth and note down any skill gaps you have that need to be filled to be successful
Ask your manager for help. Share your goals and needs with them. Do they know a mentor candidate in another department or in their extended professional network? What feedback do they have that could inform some of what you focus on with a mentor?
Search all around you, too.
- ASAE, your state/regional SAE, alumni groups, and other membership groups.
- LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack, and other online communities.
- Article/blog post authors and event speakers.
- Referrals from colleagues at other organizations.
- People you worked with at other organizations.
Consider having a variety of mentors. For example, those who are only a few career steps ahead and those who have risen higher in the profession. Remember, with easier access and more schedule flexibility, the opportunity for “quick touch” mentorship is greater than ever.
How to approach remote mentor candidates
Your first goal is to not scare off good mentor candidates. They may instinctually guard their time because they still have the traditional mentoring relationship in mind. Express your expectations immediately, especially the time desired. Describe what you need help with, what you hope to learn, and why you’re specifically interested in their advice and opinions.
Expect rejection. You’ll encounter people who are too stressed to share their time with others.
Mentorship is a symbiotic relationship between mentor and mentee. Find out what you can do for your mentors. Can you help them on a project, provide a younger person’s or new professional’s perspective on something, or connect them with someone you know?
Prepare, prepare, prepare for your first meeting
At your first meeting, be ready to discuss professional goals and challenges. Don’t waste their time; have questions prepared. Strive for a delicate balance of humility and ambition, and most importantly, curiosity.
As you continue to meet (or even if it’s only one meeting) follow through on their suggestions and show them how you’ve applied their feedback and advice. Your accountability shows your commitment to growth and respect for their guidance, and will make them feel like it’s time well spent, too.
As your professional relationship progresses, don’t bombard them with emails or messages. Agree ahead of time on how frequently you’ll communicate. As they get to know you and your goals, ask them for referrals to other people they think you should meet.
Well executed mentorships have the potential to change the lives of both the mentee and mentor. If you’d like to take your career to the next level, ask your manager to sign up for our Learning Lab, Finding a Mentor in the Remote Workplace.