5 Steps to Building Successful Mentoring Relationships in the Digital Era

(This article was written by Bianca Miller Cole and appeared on forbes.com.)

During the lock down, demand for online knowledge has surged from professionals and business owners alike, as they pursue guidance to support their business model and career pivots.

Whilst the plethora of live streams, panel discussions and webinars are valuable, it’s essential not to overlook the ‘real-life’ support of a mentor.

As the saying goes: “There is no lack of knowledge, just a shortage of asking for help.” (unknown)

There is an age old argument about which is more important “coaching” or “mentoring”, I think both are important, but I am a huge fan of mentoring in particular. Mentorship is, by definition, “a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but they must have a certain area of expertise.” And it is that expertise that helps the individual to have a better sense of clarity and purpose, with actionable steps. More importantly, it should help you to get where you are going faster and with less expensive mistakes (with reference to time and money).

With an inability to meet in person during lockdown, remote mentoring offers the flexibility of having a trusted advisor to help with tough decisions and encouragement wherever you are but forming a relationship virtually over video conferencing can be tricky.

As a mentor to over 100 mentees located across the world, I have relied on technology more than ever in recent months to stay connected. With that said, I am keen to strengthen my mentoring relationships remotely, so I turned to Selina Thompson, Digital Adoption Consultant and Founder of Forward Transformation for her insights. Selina has forged successful relationships with her international network while consulting clients on change and adoption during digital implementations. Throughout our conversation, I found Selina’s insights valuable and I believe they can also help you at any stage of your mentoring journey.

Drawing on Selina’s experience, here are her five tips to achieve successful mentoring relationships in the digital era:

Tip 1: Showcase who you are and what you do

Remember all eyes are on the internet at this time so your mentor–mentee pairings can happen anywhere online.

Create an engaging online profile to showcase what you offer and be consistent across all digital marketing channels, including social media and the ‘About Me’ page on your website. You can build an online portfolio using Flipsnack and Carbonmade they are excellent to promote your work.

Tip 2: Find your mentor online

Social media platforms open the door to thousands of mentors that would otherwise take a lifetime to find.

Professional networking platform LinkedIn has over 500 million professional members making it the most popular tool to connect with experts that match your aspirations.

Tip 3: Initiate your relationship on social media

Engage with your chosen leader online before asking them to be your mentor.

Follow social media handles to learn what matters to them and interact on public posts or direct messaging. It is important to not only engage the mentor but to have a conversation to ascertain that there is synergy and an understanding. This shows interest and lets them get to know you too. Once your mentor–mentee relationship begins, discuss your goals and align your intentions, including formal or informal arrangement, and how much time you will spend together.

Where possible get feedback from others, if they are a great mentor there is likely to be someone who will vouch for them and explain how their mentorship has helped.

Tip 4: Join a Peer-to-Peer mentoring network

Online communities hosted by industry associations and experts offer you opportunities to receive mentoring in a private forum.

Community forums are a safe space for leaders and peers to share experiences, brainstorm ideas and provide feedback. Look for areas of commonality amongst community peers on members boards to help identify mutual collaborations or where you can trade skills.

Tip 5: Optimize your mentor time using digital tools

Switching to digital practices will allow more time for valuable discussions and key takeaways.

  • Allocate time to your goals in Google calendar
  • Zoom, Google Meet or Teams offer the best user experiences for video conferencing on your mobile device or desktop
  • Use task management apps Asana, Monday.com or Trello to organise and track actions monthly
  • Don’t wait for email replies! Communicate with your mentor and peers using instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, GoogleHangouts or WeChat
  • Share and purchase book recommendations using audiobook apps. See Audible and other alternatives.
  • Teams and Slack are the leaders in cloud collaboration. Instant chat, video meetings, collaborating, storing files and integration with over 200 external applications are just several highlights of streamlining your remote working experience.

In short, if you feel you need a mentor, get one. This is not only about entrepreneurs, those in a professional career can also benefit from mentoring.

In fact, mentoring has proved so beneficial that 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs to their employees. According to a report from Wharton individuals with a mentor “were promoted five times more often than those not in the program; and retention rates were much higher for mentees (72%) …than for employees who did not participate in the mentoring program (49%).”

Many of the great business leaders that we admire have a mentor or coach, according to the Kabbage report “92% of small business owners agree that mentors have a direct impact on the growth and survival of their business and 89% of small business owners who didn’t have a mentor wish that they did.” These statistics illustrate the need for experienced mentors in the entrepreneurial community who can deliver good advice to help a business over those shaky first years.

The stats are clear, if you want to succeed in business or your career, get the mentorship you need to thrive.