At some point a few years back, “mentor” became a buzzword of sorts. Every blog post or self-help book on careers urged readers to seek out mentors if they really wanted to succeed.
Like a fairy godmother (or godfather), your mentor would help you overcome the thorniest work-related challenges with grace and style.
It turns out that there was substance behind the hype. Finding the right person to guide you professionally can indeed improve your personal growth and your career. This kind of relationship could especially benefit remote workers, as their visibility is often comparably lower than those of onsite professionals.
But what about those actually being a remote mentor. How is it possible to establish relationships with far-away colleagues that depend so heavily on 1:1 interaction? How do you build trust and confidence in one another when you can’t even make eye contact?
While remote work has grown in popularity, remote mentoring is still coming of age. Here are five practical tips for those experienced professionals who’d like to become a remote mentor to their virtual or off-site colleagues:
1. Connect proactively.
If you’d like to help a peer or colleague, spread the word and make it known that you’re excited to share your expertise and would welcome the opportunity to support others. Approach the newer members of your team to let them know you’re eager to assist others with their professional development.
You don’t have to make it your LinkedIn status, but casually mentioning your interest in becoming a remote mentor will go a long way.
2. Share your lessons learned.
Whether you’ve been location independent for five years or 20, you’ve come a long way since your own professional beginnings. Think back to your earlier days as a remote worker; what do you wish you’d have known then? What could you tell this person that will save them time, hassle, or headaches?
Consider which experiences have shaped your path, and be ready to offer those insights in a video chat.
3. Offer just-in-time advice.
Like the rest of life, work can be unpredictable. Be open to syncing up with your mentee outside of regularly scheduled meetings on occasion. You never know when a difficult conversation or team conflict might pop up, or if they’ll need some quick guidance on how to handle a big client presentation.
By simply making yourself available to provide counsel when it’s needed, you could make a huge difference in your mentee’s life.
4. Challenge your mentee.
Where there is comfort, there is little growth. While your mentee may not be eager to volunteer for tough assignments or take on high profile projects, it’s your job to encourage them to continually aim higher.
Discuss their career goals and offer ideas on how they can work to achieve them—even through incremental progress. Recommend a course of action they might not take alone, and help them through each step of the way. Your motivation and feedback will provide a firm foundation for their eventual leadership.
5. Grow their network.
The most fruitful mentoring relationships are those that bring others into the fold. While your conversations may be 1:1, you can serve as a powerful point of contact who widens your mentee’s social circle.
You’ve cultivated relationships with professionals from a variety of industries and all walks of life; certainly there are others who can be of assistance in some way. Identify helpful contacts and make the introduction.