It’s not uncommon to run into challenges during your mentoring partnership. This is especially true if you’ve never been a mentee or a mentor before. A lot of people ask themselves, “Am I doing this right?”
To squash your doubts, here are six common mentoring challenges and their solutions, thanks to research by the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
1. My Mentee seems disinterested
In order for a mentoring partnership to be fruitful, it entails an amount of effort from both parties, but usually means a bit more coming from the mentee. If it seems as if your mentee is disinterested or lacking motivation and/or commitment, it’s time to talk about it. What is your mentee feeling? Is s/he overwhelmed with work, has s/he decided to go a different direction, does s/he feel as if you as a mentor aren’t invested, or is s/he simply frustrated with the mentoring process, e.g. it’s not living up to his or her expectations? Understanding the underlying cause and/or rationale of why you’re perceiving this indifference is key to remedying the situation before the relationship becomes wholly unproductive.
2. My Mentor isn’t very engaged
Do you feel as if your mentor isn’t as dedicated to your career or professional path as you’d like? If you feel as if your mentor isn’t committed to your mentoring partnership, it’s important to bring this up with him/her. Usually, someone who has agreed to be a mentor has a strong commitment to the process, so their apparent lack of attention or commitment may come as a surprise. Ask if something has changed–either personally or professionally–since they decided to take you on as a mentee, and if they’d like to continue with the partnership or not.
3. I don’t think I’m a good match with my mentoring partner
In a manually-matched program, program coordinators try their best to make the most compatible matches based on the information they’re supplied with. Sometimes, a mismatch can still occur due to personal differences or clashing personalities. If a mismatch does occur, you have a few options:
- Discuss with your mentoring partner whether s/he would like to close the loop or not
- Get searching, explore profiles on MyMatch to find another match
- Speak with your program coordinator to be rematched, or use the recommended match feature for your next pairing
4. I’m not getting the type of direction I need from my mentor
When it comes to providing direction, mentors are in a bit of a Goldilocks situation: Providing too much can overwhelm a mentee and encourage dependence, while providing too little, according to UIC, could “leave the mentee to flounder and, again, inhibit progress toward independence.” Just the right amount of direction is what’s needed, and whatever that amount is, is highly dependent on your particular mentee. Therefore, ask your mentee directly if you’re providing an adequate amount of direction based on his/her goals and/or specific timetable.
5. I’m receiving conflicting advice
Usually, if someone is open to receiving advice from one person–say a mentor–they’re probably open to receiving it from other people as well. Which is when conflicting advice from colleagues or other similar professionals can become an issue. While this can be confusing, it’s important to talk through these differing pieces of advice with your mentor to better understand why s/he gave you that advice in the first place. Did it come from personal experience? Does your mentor have more professional experience in that area than the other person? And most importantly: What do you think? What do you want to do?
6. I don’t know what to prioritise!
This one is all too common. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks or exercises your mentor wants you to complete in addition to your existing workload, it can be hard to know what to focus on. Talk this through with your mentor. Tell him/her what’s currently on your plate and exactly how much time you’re willing to commit to the mentoring partnership early on in order to set realistic expectations. If you still find yourself in a prioritisation nightmare, ask your mentor directly what s/he would recommend you tackle first!
Not struggling with these mentoring challenges per se but still at a standstill in your mentoring relationship? Check out these 25 questions you can use to better get to know your mentee/mentor on a deeper level, or these four session guides to help plan your next mentorship meeting.
You too can start building a culture of mentoring at your organisation, with Mentorloop. Easily match your people into engaging mentorships while saving time on admin. Get a free software demo now.