Professional Development Ideas for Mentees and Mentors
As a parent who sometimes struggled with ways to keep her child busy and entertained this summer, I can sympathize with anyone who feels like they’ve run out of ideas. Trying to stimulate someone’s learning and development can be difficult. The well of ideas runs dry all too fast, it seems!
I hope you never feel this way about your mentoring relationship, but in case you feel things are getting a bit stale, here are a few ideas for you to try to help perk things up. These can be suggestions the mentor makes to the mentee in the course of working together, or they can also be things either one of you does on your own to help improve your mentoring relationship.
1. Ted Talks
There’s a reason why Ted Talks uses the tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading.” These quality videos provide expert insights and approaches on topics of all types. I feel pretty confident you can find a Ted Talk on a subject that relates to your mentoring relationship goals or interest areas.
Mentors: Do you have a favorite Ted Talk? Suggest that your mentee watch it, and then discuss it together. What made it so special to you? How can it pertain to your mentoring relationship?
Mentees: Don’t wait for your mentor to point you to a specific Ted Talk. Go explore the options available and watch some that interest you. Use them as a starting point for a conversation with your mentor. Focus on what resonated with you and how that could impact the work you are trying to do through mentoring.
2. Professional Networks
Get it out of your head right now that a single mentor can provide all the information and wisdom that a mentee needs. This is a fantasy. People need multiple mentors throughout their lifetime; different people who can provide advice on different aspects of the mentee’s work and life.
Mentors: Use your professional network as a resource for your mentee. Is there a particular person you know who is great at X, Y, or Z? Could they provide your mentee with some wonderful insights into an area that might be outside of your comfort zone? Consider connecting the two of them so that they can talk.
Mentees: Use your mentoring relationship as an opportunity to build your professional network. Is there someone in your mentor’s network who might be an expert on a topic related to your mentoring goals? Ask your mentor for an introduction. The worst they can say is no.
3. Company Training and Resources
Most organizations have training and learning resources available to employees. These materials, courses, videos, and more can be fantastic supplemental resources to use during a mentoring relationship.
Mentors: Ask your Learning & Development department for supporting materials and resources. (These might also come from HR or the Training Department depending on your company.) These resources can alleviate some of the pressure on you to have all the answers. Pointing someone in the right direction can be helpful, too!
Mentees: Ask your mentor for suggestions on any training courses, videos, assessments, etc. that they recommend that could help you achieve your mentoring goals. These resources can become a talking point within your mentoring relationship; you can use them as a conversation generator and learning opportunity.
4. Conferences and Professional Groups
There are countless professional conferences held each year. In the HR world, you have such conferences as ATD’s International Conference and SHRM’s Leadership Conference or their Diversity and Inclusion Conference. On the consumer tech side of things, you have the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). For the health care industry, you have the HIMSS Conference. And the list goes on, with many more events that are specific to a whole range of topics. While these conferences may cost money to attend, they can be a great way to hear from experts, meet people in your field, and learn about innovative techniques that you can try on the job. Many professional groups also have local chapters that you can join or whose meetings you could attend.
Mentors: What professional organizations do you belong to? Could these be beneficial to your mentee? Suggest that they join one or two of these organizations, and then look for an opportunity for the two of you to attend a live event together. Maybe it’s a chapter meeting or perhaps it’s a larger conference that will be in your area. Look for an occasion to hear an expert together, which can give you more fodder for subsequent mentoring conversations.
Mentees: What are some areas where you want to see professional growth? Ask your mentor for ideas on any groups you could join or conferences you could attend that would help you advance. A local chapter or a conference being held in your area can be a cost-effective way to engage with others in your community who are also interested in these same topics. This can be a great way to grow your network, hear from experts, get new ideas, and have something fresh to talk to your mentor about the next time you meet.
5. Books, Articles, Podcasts, and Webinars
A low-cost way to explore new ideas is through books, articles, podcasts, and webinars. And there is a plethora available, that is for sure! For example, River offers numerous articles and webinars about mentoring for free via our website. A quick internet search will no doubt bring up thousands of hits for you to peruse on whatever topic strikes your interest.
Mentors: Do you have a go-to resource on a topic that is relevant to your mentee’s learning goals that you can suggest to your mentee? Perhaps a book that provides core information that you rely on? Or maybe a recent article that you read that caused you to think differently about something? Or possibly even an upcoming webinar from a professional organization? Use these types of resources as a supplement to your mentoring conversations and a way to bring additional information and viewpoints into the discussion.
Mentees: Look for articles, books, webinars, and podcasts on topics that interest you and that are relevant to your learning goals. Consider bringing one of these resources with you to a mentoring meeting to use it as a discussion starter. Did it spark ideas in your head that you want to bounce off your mentor? Or maybe you have a question about something you read or heard that you want your mentor’s take on. There are plenty of free resources available that can help you build your knowledge and support your mentoring efforts.
Mentoring activities can create the heart of your relationship, allowing you and your partner to learn from one another. Look for ways to start conversations, attain new knowledge, and forge the bonds of your mentoring relationship.