The Covid-19 situation has left many of us feeling worried, overwhelmed and uncertain about our jobs, our ambitions and our opportunities. Jobs have become more challenging, the work days more intense in spite of working from home as online meetings have a tendency to require more energy to be attentive – and since we have a tendency to take shorter breaks between meetings as there is no time needed to change location. Everything is taking place in front of the computer screen!
In such times the role of the mentor is also to support their mentees in achieving a good work/life balance and adapting to the new reality.
Here are what mentors can do:
"Check in" conversations
Let your mentee know you are both facing the new reality, share your challenges, acknowledge what is going on and engage in a dialogue about the pandemic. Be open about how the situation is influencing you and your mentee – also on an emotional level – and keep in contact even between your formal mentoring meetings to show your mentee that you are there.
Balance listening with challenging
Especially in tough times, mentors need to listen with empathy. One important challenge presented by the social distancing is loneliness and not knowing how to network and build relationships, while at the same time all meetings with work colleagues are intense and focused on performance leaving little time for informal sharing of information – personal or otherwise.
Challenge mentees to find new ways of networking, help them find new ways of socializing with colleagues and friends to build a healthy balance between work and social/personal time.
Making sense and don't fix
In these uncertain times, one thing the mentors can do is help mentees making sense of their situation, how the Covid-19 situation has influenced their job, their ambitions and their behavior. What is the reality of the current situation and how do they feel about this? What are the main concerns and expectations for what is to come? Don’t tell the mentees what to do. You cannot fix it for them, anyway. Help them understand and help them find out what they can do – what is within their control, what can they influence, and what is completely outside their control – so they can feel confident in whatever they decide to do.
Help mentee focus on what is important and what they can control/influence
In times of uncertainty and upheaval, it can be difficult to determine what is important. Using the well-known urgent/important matrix is a good place to start helping mentee consider what is important and not important and what is most urgent to do. Probably some of the “not-urgent” tasks like taking care of your own mental health, developing yourself, and building networks for future career steps have not been prioritized for a long time, so they have now become urgent or at least need to be considered carefully.
Additionally, mentee may need to be gently directed towards what is within the cmentee’s sphere of control or at least with the sphere of influence to avoid the mentee spending a lot of energy on trying to resolve issues outside of mentee’s control.
We are all just humans
Whether you are holding your online meetings at a table in your basement or in the living room where your dog will join you occasionally to see what you are doing, don’t try to hide these personal challenges. Use them to “keep it real” – sharing your situation makes it more comfortable for mentees to share theirs. Don’t miss the chance for a good laugh, when children or dogs interrupt your meetings 😊.