I’m working this week on a story on ways to mentor more efficiently. Warm and fuzzy as it might feel, mentoring is not a purely charitable act; over time it can massively help you in your career, particularly if you make time for it early on. People’s careers progress at different rates, and the people you mentor early on aren’t starting that far behind you. It’s entirely possible that someone you mentor will have a major breakthrough, and hopefully use some of that career capital to help you too.
That said, mentoring tends to fall into the same category as reading and exercise. People say they’d love to do it, if only I had the time! Unlike exercise, though, relationships are not neatly compressed into something you do for half an hour at 6 a.m. four days per week. So is it even possible to talk about efficiencies?
I think it is. One of the best ideas I’ve heard on this front came from a woman I interviewed for 168 Hours. She ran a foundation, and lots of people would like to figure out how to build a career in the philanthropic space. She’d get requests for informational interviews, people asking to take her out to coffee to “pick her brain” (ugh, that phrase!), etc. So she came up with a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that she could share with people. This went over what hiring officers tend to look for on resumes, what experiences to play up, how decisions are made, etc.
This FAQ served three purposes. First, she could be at least semi-helpful to everyone who asked. It isn’t that hard to send someone a list of answers. Second, a reasonable chunk of people would not follow up after that. If so, fine. Time is limited. We all have just 168 hours per week, and most of us don’t work more than 2000-3000 hours per year. There are a lot of priorities that have to fit within that time. Third, those who did follow up wouldn’t spend their informational meeting asking the same questions that were on the FAQs (well, not usually). That meant that the quality of those sessions was much higher. They could get more specific about who, exactly, the mentee wished to be introduced to.
Have you ever seen — or used — a mentoring FAQ? What other ideas do you have for being slightly more efficient as you try to invest in people?
In other news: On the title front — THEIR OWN SWEET TIME: How successful women build lives that work.