As many employees continue to work from home, take on additional (or altered) roles and responsibilities, navigate job uncertainty or deal with unexpected furloughs and layoffs, mentorship is more important than ever. Regardless of your industry or what career stage you’re in, you need – or potentially need to be – a mentor.
Here are three reasons why mentorship is especially important in the era of COVID-19:
- Employees need connection. Teleworking and stay-at-home orders can create loneliness that impacts both our personal and professional lives. Connectivity and a strong virtual company culture are critical to maintaining productivity, camaraderie, strong mental health and more. Mentors should make an extra effort to touch base with mentees – even if it’s just for a 15-minute Zoom coffee date or quick phone call – to let them know they are there for fellowship and support. Be mindful that many people are experiencing significant emotional responses to the pandemic, so your conversation may turn from traditional professional discussion topics to safety and wellbeing. Listen attentively and encourage your mentee(s) to practice self-care. Also establish a plan for how to preserve a healthy, supportive and communicative relationship during this period. If you know your mentees’ CliftonStrengths or DISC profiles, use the insights afforded by their personality styles to best meet their socialization needs. And, check out Mentor.org and Nature.com for additional tips on how to foster connection in a time of social distancing.
- Goals should likely change. The new challenges facing businesses can have a strong ripple effect on the responsibilities of employees. Many may be asked to take on new roles or an expanded workload, which will require them to reevaluate their goals for the coming year. Conversely, employees in industries experiencing slowdowns can capitalize on their lighter workloads by pursuing virtual professional development opportunities. (Visit Coursera.org or The Muse for ideas!) Whatever the case may be for your mentee(s), this is an ideal time to revisit both short- and long-term goals and make any necessary adjustments.
- Lack of focus may become an increasing challenge. As many employees continue to work from home – and juggle everything from Zoom fatigue to parenting in an era of virtual learning – they may begin to lose focus or a sense of direction. Encouraging personal growth is a great way to spark new energy and momentum amidst a monotonous work routine. For example, help mentees get involved with professional organizations. This could also be a great time to explore potential board positions or volunteer opportunities within their communities, which could also allow them to develop new skillsets. Uncovering a renewed sense of purpose beyond their day-to-day responsibilities may be just what your mentees need to inspire them in the months ahead.
At Jackson Spalding, mentorship is a defining element of our agency’s culture, and I feel especially fortunate that we have such a strong program in place during this time. If you don’t have a mentor (or a mentee!) but are interested in finding one, read this JS Thinkstand post for tips to consider as you cultivate a new professional relationship.