What does it mean to be a mentor? A mentor is a teacher, someone who provides feedback and guidance, who is there to help bounce ideas off of and who offers inspiration. A mentorship is a special relationship that extends beyond friendship or a work relationship that offers guidance, feedback and goal setting.
The dietetics profession is built on mentorship — future RDNs rely on preceptors who give their time and expertise to guide students and interns in learning. But the role of mentors doesn’t have to stop there! A mentor can inspire, motivate and provide support to professionals at any point in their career.
What does it take to be a successful mentor? Try these four tips.
Ask your mentee open-ended questions to inspire self-reflection. Take a real interest in hearing their answers and listen with curiosity rather than judgment. Active listening will help create trust and a deeper relationship as you work together. Keep interruptions to a minimum and create an open forum to allow your mentee to express himself or herself. While your own story is sometimes valid, you also want to share the conversation.
Attending professional conferences, reaching out to other dietitians in your area and connecting with co-workers can add value and depth to your experience as an RDN. Students and interns aren’t the only ones who need mentors! Your fellow dietitians, colleagues and members of your community may want to connect as well. Be sure to network in your field and beyond if you want to mentor others. Remember, you don’t have to be the most experienced professional in order to be a mentor.
Create Themed Meetings or Sessions
A mentorship is more than just a friendship, it is a structured relationship. To get the most out of your meetings, develop a theme and open each session with expectations around the time you will spend together. When each person knows what to expect, a mentor-mentee relationship will be more successful.
Be a Role Model
Live your own values and set a positive example to other dietitians, students and interns. As a mentor, you should be a credible role model and do the things that you encourage others to do. Follow through on your commitments, respect your mentee’s time, set boundaries and be professional. You can be a mentor to others as they simply watch what you do and how you act. These everyday actions alone can set a positive example.