Making It Click
The Toigo Foundation staff looks at a mentee’s long-term interests and learning needs and pairs him or her with a mentor who has a complementary background. We also weigh
the expectations and profile of the professional in creating a
match. Several proven criteria and attributes have successfully served Toigo in making these evaluations.
In addition to matching by industry sector, we also seek
geographic proximity. Though we’ve seen successful pairings based on e-mail, Skype, and phone conversations, we’ve
found that personal proximity enables greater exchange and
feedback—and is preferable for the initial connection.
Also important are availability and resources—how much
time can the mentor provide? Those with time constraints
often may be paired with mentees who need more-targeted
mentoring, or they may enlist colleagues as additional resources for mentees.
Finally, we look for common interests to enhance a pairing and establish common ground—alma mater, gender, or
Successful pairings depend on establishing expectations
and priorities, setting out what each partner hopes to achieve
in the relationship and what constitutes progress.
What Makes a Good Mentor?
“I had a wonderful mentoring experience but identified early on that
my mentee was not suited for the
area he was pursuing. I saw his
skill fitting elsewhere. I was honest in my assessment, which was
difficult for him to accept initially, but
today, he is successfully working in
a new area of finance, and I believe
I played an important role in that
–2008 Toigo Mentor
In the past decade, views on the characteristics of a good
mentor have evolved to incorporate the role of “sponsor”
or “advocate,” particularly when the mentoring is focused
on the mid-career professional and the mentor has an opportunity to promote his or her mentee’s talents during
evaluation for promotion or job opportunity. An effective
mentor, even with an early career–stage mentee, can incorporate these added responsibilities. Some key qualities
enable this to work well.
A Mentor Should Be
Patient. A mentee may not think or do things in ways that
seem obvious to someone experienced in the field. This
is particularly true with a younger generation that is less
meticulous about traditional expectations for such basic
business protocol as timely response to e-mails and calls.
Finding accommodation on how important these issues
are is key to mentorship.
Supportive. In helping a mentee set realistic and measurable goals and develop skills, a mentor should be supportive, even nurturing. The mentor should structure the
relationship to facilitate the mentee’s professional and personal growth while providing consistent, honest feedback
in a supportive way. In volunteering, a professional should
view this relationship as another important area to manage, with a great ROI.
Collaborative. Successful mentoring includes collaborative
critical thinking and planning and mutual participation in
goal setting. It should include joint reflection on actions
and the merits of areas identified for progress. A mentor
should guide but not dictate paths to achieve short- and
long-term personal and career goals.
Honest. A mentor must commit to a straightforward communication style. A mentor who avoids critically assessing
the mentee does not serve the mentee’s best interest in the
long run. Honest, critical assessment enables the mentor
to advocate for the skills and potential of the mentee.