Modern Day Mentoring: What Distance Mentoring Looks Like
The hectic schedule of a professional doesn’t always permit spare time for mentoring. However, digital technology allows the mutually beneficial results of mentoring to happen with greater convenience. How does it work? Let’s take a look.
What Is Distance Mentoring?
Mentoring has traditionally taken place in person. Whether at the office or in a more relaxed setting like a café or restaurant, effectively the only way to exchange ideas was face-to-face.Thanks to leaps in modern technology, mentorship partners now have a wider range of options at their disposal. As well as meeting in person – which remains a valid and productive way to facilitate mentoring – it’s now possible to conduct the relationship by video chat, phone calls, instant messaging, and email. This is what we mean by distance mentoring.
In fact, using a combination of different methods is now the best way to work around work and family commitments, while keeping the lines of communication open.
Who Might Choose Distance Mentoring?
Busy professionals have to work around a multitude of conflicting demands on their time. As well as the packed schedule of a thriving career, we all need to make time for family, friends, and leisure – for our sanity, if nothing else!
As such, it can be prohibitively difficult to squeeze in time to fulfill mentoring duties in person. Distance mentoring offers a useful solution.
Instead of travelling to a meeting place, spending time with a mentoring partner, then reversing the journey home, it’s quick and simple to set up a video call. Mentors and mentees still have the opportunity to meet face-to-face, just in a slightly different way!
Materials can be shared by email or instant message, then discussed in a video or voice call. The key strengths of mentoring – sharing guidance, exchanging ideas, providing feedback, and developing soft skills – still happen, in a much more convenient format.
Distance mentoring also allows for impromptu advice to be given. Let’s say a young professional is due to deliver quarterly results at a team meeting. They might be feeling nervous, concerned about their performance, or otherwise lacking in confidence. A mentor will be able to provide instant support, either with a quick text, a brief call, or a video message. Urgent questions can be answered in the nick of time, without serious disruption to the mentor.
Similarly, if a mentor has a last-minute invitation to a networking event that might be of interest to the mentee, they can share it digitally in seconds.
Distance mentoring is, therefore, perfect for the modern mentoring partnership. It combines the benefits of traditional mentoring with the convenience of up-to-date communication technology.
The Benefits of Distance Mentoring
Formal education, vocational training, and employers’ curricula provide the background knowledge and on-the-job expertise that allow you to succeed in your role.
However, there remains a gap for a type of learning that goes beyond the standard box-ticking. To truly flourish in your career, it’s helpful to work with a mentor.
Mentors are highly experienced professionals, usually working within your industry, that offer guidance to people who are new to their chosen career, or working their way up the ladder.
Mentoring isn’t the same as working in a school or university, or as a professional lecturer. Participants draw on similar teaching skills, but they also tend to take a less structured and formal approach. Instead, the mentoring relationship is personalised; the mentor assesses the current status of the mentee and what they want to achieve, then offers practical advice, tips, and feedback.
There are huge rewards for each party. Mentors have the opportunity to develop their soft skills – such as teaching, listening, and compassion – as well as strengthening their position as a leader and expert in their field.
For mentees, the guidance received from an experienced practitioner in their sector is invaluable. Soft skills such as confidence, assertiveness, and resilience are improved, while mentors may also provide exclusive networking and shadowing opportunities. Working with a mentor can, therefore, shorten the amount of time that emerging professionals take to reach their career goals.
How to Get the Most Out of Distance Mentoring
Modern technology advances at breathtaking speed, but the core principles of mentoring remain the same – no matter which format it takes. To get the most benefit, each partner must be willing to invest time, energy, and commitment.
Although distance mentoring largely takes place digitally, meeting in person at least once is strongly recommended. If opportunities are limited, the best time to meet face-to-face is at the start of the mentoring relationship.
From the outset, the mentor and mentee should agree which methods of communication are suitable for each party. For example, the mentee may be happy to send messages using their personal number in the evening, but the mentor might prefer to use only their work number, or restrict contact to set times. Discussing this at the start of a partnership avoids difficulties further down the line.
It’s a good idea to set up a regular appointment – especially at the beginning. Consistent communication provides an excellent foundation for meaningful cooperation.
Finally, always be honest with one another. The mentee should be open about what they want to achieve, and the mentor must be able to provide constructive feedback. In fact, when both sides are able to speak frankly – and respectfully – to one another, the conversation is at its most productive.
Are you interested in sharing your expertise with a young professional? Or would youbenefit from mentoring from a leader in your field? Click here to find out more about TheMentoring Institute.