Mentoring and career development in times of crisis | The Association of Corporate Treasurers

Mentoring and career development in times of crisis

The current pandemic means more people are now working remotely and adapting their business to the virtual environment. This is throwing up all manner of new challenges that we need to work through and having a mentor to discuss these challenges with can be invaluable.

In ordinary circumstances, many mentors focus on the career development side of mentoring. Although those remain important, other functions such as demonstrating emotional and social support are especially valuable in these uncertain times. This may involve a mentor listening to understand mentees’ struggles and concerns, acknowledging and validating the challenges they are facing and the distress they are feeling.

As a role model a mentor can share their own experiences during the shutdown of normal work, discussing how the break in physical routines, the restricted access to others, and the bombardment of information can feel overwhelming and isolating. Simply giving mentees permission to take a break from the news and their work routines to engage in self-care can be very beneficial.

The career development functions of mentoring can still continue regardless of social distancing. Mentors can still create space for career conversations. Mentees may be worried that they’ll be made redundant, that their work will no longer be noticed by their managers, or that progress toward advancement and promotion will be derailed.

Facing an uncertain future, mentees are more likely to use their connection with a mentor to lower anxiety and to work with the mentor to develop a vision of how they can not only weather the storm but continue to thrive in their careers.

How to continue a mentoring relationship in a time of social distancing:

  1. Communicate with each other, find time for a phone call or a video meeting, even if it is only for a few minutes. Everyone is experiencing plenty of uncertainty and new demands. Let your mentoring be something you can depend on.
  2. Make adjustments to your normal mentoring routines. Work out the best medium for meeting in the online environment. You might need to work around childcare, or other commitments that are now part of this new working environment.
  3. Keep it real. If you have children at home because schools are closed, or if you are having to work in a room with other members of your family, don’t hide those personal challenges. Use them to develop a friendly connection, sharing your situation makes it more comfortable for your mentor/mentee to share theirs.
  4. Show care and compassion. Test your listening skills - as a mentor focus on your mentee’s concerns, and as a mentee focus on your mentor’s responses. Financial, health, job, and family matters are all likely to be pressing issues.
  5. As a mentor it’s important to offer support that will enable mentees to overcome challenges on their own. Mentors aren’t there to rescue or fix everything for mentees. Instead, they provide strategies, skills, and resources that mentees can use to learn and to grow so that they can address their challenges themselves.

If you are not in a mentoring relationship, the ACT’s Mentor Me scheme is available to all members here.

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