Unprecedented times like these are when we need to plug into our support systems more than ever.
When it comes to our professional lives, things have been upended—you may have started working from home for the first time or have had to learn how to bring every aspect of your job online. These unexpected shifts may have thrown off career goals mentees had planned with their mentors, or at least put them on hold.
It’s not uncommon to feel uncertain about what the future of your career holds given this recent upheaval of norms. That’s where a mentoring partner comes in.
Mentoring relationships have two main functions: career and psychosocial. Here’s how mentoring partners can help with both during this time.
If you’re a mentee, you’ll want to get together with your mentor to discuss how the adaptation to remote work—whether it be just-for-now or will be more long-term—affects the career map you created together. How does this affect your goals, if at all? Do you need to adapt them or change your timeline given the current climate? Will this mean you will have to pivot your overall strategy, or simply make adjustments in the short-term?
Your mentor can help walk you through these challenges and any other unexpected hiccups. It’s more likely than not that they too have had to pivot and change course at some point in their own careers—that firsthand experience will come in handy especially now as they help you navigate this shift.
As Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes, in ordinary circumstances, many mentors focus more on the career functions of mentoring, and while those remain important, psychosocial functions of mentorship are especially valuable in uncertain times. Psychosocial functions of mentoring include a focus on emotional support, affirmation, acceptance, reassurance and friendship; they “tap into empathy and compassion and involve deliberate expressions of care”.
How can mentoring partners demonstrate psychosocial support to one another?
In order to demonstrate emotional and social support, it’s important that both parties begin by offering to listen generously. After all, it’s only when we listen that we are able to hear and really understand our mentoring partner’s unique struggles and concerns.
Acknowledgement + Validation
Once we’ve heard these struggles and concerns, it’s paramount that we next acknowledge the distress our partner is feeling and validate the changes they are facing and will need to make. Be a sounding board and support their decisions in order to help them move forward.
Being vulnerable is one of the most important ways we can show up for each other right now. Authentically sharing our own experiences during this shutdown of normal work processes and procedures can help create an environment of mutual understanding. As HBR suggests, “Discuss how the break-in physical routines, the restricted access to others, and the bombardment of information can feel overwhelming and isolating.”
Support + Affirmation
If you’re a mentor, ensure your mentee knows that you’re there to provide support. Be clear about which ways you can help and which ways you can’t, and affirm their need to take breaks from work routines, news consumption, etc. in order to engage in self-care.
Last but not least, humour can go far in tense situations. While you will be discussing heavy topics with your mentoring partner in the coming weeks and months, try to always end your conversations on a light, happy note. After all, this situation is temporary.
Helping Others Helps Ourselves
The cherry-on-top of being there for your mentoring partner during this time is that it’s scientifically proven that the people who cope best during a crisis are those who help others.
Having a sense of purpose, being generous, and giving support to others can have a significant impact on our well-being, including reduced anxiety. The “helper’s high” consists of positive emotions following selfless service to others, leading to greater health and increased longevity for the giver.
Ultimately, participating in a mentoring relationship during times like these can lower anxiety about future prospects and help partners share hopeful visions of not only making it through these tough times, but continuing to thrive in their careers once the storm has passed. Learn how your organisation can set up a Remote mentoring program easily today.