6 Tips for Being a Mentor to a Young Farmer
At a certain point in your farming career, people will ask you for help and advice. This provides you the opportunity to give back, lift others up, provide value and feel good.
But mentoring doesn’t come natural to all of us. Plus, there are times when people ask but they either are not a good fit or maybe aren’t the type of person in which you want to invest.
Here are a few tips for evaluating a mentoring request.
1. ASSESS THE FIT. Is this a person you have the expertise and skills to help?
2. SET TIME PARAMETERS. If someone wants to have a phone call or take you to lunch, you are not obligated to donate your entire afternoon. Say, ‘Sure I have 30 minutes to talk with you.’ Then stick to the parameters. If needed, kindly stop the person when you need to go. They need to respect your time.
3. DETERMINE THE MENTEE’S WILLINGNESS. Does the mentee actually want guidance? Ask him or her if they are up for honest feedback. Like you, I get a lot of resumes from acquaintances’ kids looking for me to recommend them for a job or internship. But not all resumes are the caliber I can recommend to my colleagues. The best thing I can offer is kind suggestions for improvement. I’ve had people get mad, taking offense to the fact I won’t just “send it on.” These are parents and students who can’t accept feedback, and they are not likely to get ahead.
4. SET SOME GOALS. Ask the mentee what their goals are and what outcomes they seek. Are they ready to do something new or take a leap? There is no reason to listen to someone complain about their personal problems (if they are serious enough, you need to connect them with a counseling professional). If the mentee doesn’t keep it focused and productive, move on.
5. ENSURE APPRECIATION. Does the mentee show you genuine appreciation and respect for your time and talents? If they are late, constantly rescheduling or just mooching, it’s not a fit. Have you ever had someone in your house you can’t seem to get to go home no matter how many hints you drop? Or do you have a person who gobbles food or beer and never repays? It feels bad — and it enables. Your mentee should feel grateful for what you offer; if not, it’s not worth it for them.
6. DECIDE IF YOU CARE. No really, do you enjoy talking to the mentee? That’s the easy gut-check question. If you are having fun and learning something from your mentee, it’s probably a great relationship that could span a career. It can be hard to kindly tell someone no; however, I encourage you, for the mentee’s sake equally as much as your own, to evaluate carefully and offer your time thoughtfully.
SARAH BETH AUBREY
December 12, 2022