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Give Back, Get Back: Being a Mentor in Retirement Thumbnail

Give Back, Get Back: Being a Mentor in Retirement

Retirement can be a difficult transition.  Going from work where we used years of experience, wisdom, and our creativity in solving problems and making a difference to suddenly not always using such experience and skills can be emotionally difficult. There are a variety of ways to stay engaged in retirement, and mentoring is one of my favorites. 

Mentoring can be a fulfilling way for retirees to repurpose their professional skills, give back, and stay active.  But there's more to building an effective mentoring relationship than just making yourself available for a chat.  While you may have specific guidelines from the mentoring organization (if you join a formal mentoring relationship), we have included four tips that will help both mentor and mentee get the most out of their time together.

1. Set a schedule. 

Treat mentorship like a professional responsibility.   Decide how many hours per week you are going to spend together.  Are these meetings going to be virtual?  In-person?  A combination of the two? Establishing these guidelines and putting your meetings on your calendar will add a little structure to your retirement schedule and ensure that both you and your mentee will respect each other's time. 

Also, consider setting an end date for this mentorship: a semester, a quarter, a month.  If, at the end of this time, both participants wish to continue, set a new schedule.  On the other hand, if the relationship has run its course, it will be much easier to part amicably and without awkwardness. 

2. Set expectations.

What is the specific purpose of this mentorship?  Does a grad student in your field need some help with her thesis?  Are you going to train a young professional or coach up some of his skills?  Are you going to help someone looking for a career change gain new skills or brush up their resume? 

What kind of boundaries do you want to establish?  Are you willing to open up your professional network to your mentee?  Can he or she contact you outside of your scheduled meetings by phone, text, or email?  Use you as a reference on a resume or as a source in a research paper?

Also, what tasks do you expect your mentee to perform outside of your time together so that this mentorship continues to progress towards its goal?  How will you hold your mentee accountable for that progress?  What benchmarks can you set?  What daily, weekly, or monthly goals should your mentee be hitting? 

Your time and experience are both extremely valuable.  Be clear about what you expect your mentee to do and what you are willing to do in return. 

3. Ask personal and professional questions. 

At the beginning of the relationship, your mentee might feel nervous or intimidated.  Or he or she might approach your initial meetings like they're attending a class where you'll be dispensing wisdom. 

It's up to the mentor to balance out the relationship and break the ice.  Perhaps your first meeting should be more of a getting-to-know-you chat where you don't really talk shop.  Ask about family, hobbies, the reasons they chose their field, favorite sports teams, books, movies.  Making a personal connection will help your mentee open up more and participate actively once it is time to get down to business.  True two-way communication will also give you an opportunity to learn from the next generation, gain new perspectives, and perhaps discover some new interests you might want to pursue on your own time. 

4. Stay positive. 

When you were a young professional, you probably had positive and negative interactions with seasoned pros whom you looked up to.  Try to emulate the conversations and experiences that inspired and motivated you.  When criticism is necessary, maintain a constructive tone.  After all, your mentee wouldn’t have approached you in the first place if he didn’t recognize that he needed guidance.  Spend less time pointing out flaws than you do helping your mentee identify potential solutions and paths for growth. 

Other opportunities to mentor through formal associations

There are a variety of places to become a mentor.  It can be a happenstance meeting with someone in your community (e.g., Church, gym, neighbors), through your local school (elementary on up to college), through a particular industry association, your alma mater, or another business association.  For example, SCORE has volunteer opportunities in Nashville (https://nashville.score.org/volunteer-39) for those with business experience.  It can be a great way to share your wisdom, help a small business thrive, while keeping your mind engaged.  SCORE is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business administration and offers mentoring to small business entrepreneurs through the SBA offices.  Arts & Business Council also has mentor opportunities (https://abcnashville.org/become-a-mentor/).  College mentorships may look like something what Belmont University offers - https://www.belmont.edu/career-development/career_network/index.html.  

Mentoring Youth in Retirement

While much of this article focused on professional relationships, do not forget about youth mentoring that can be even more rewarding and is arguably needed even more in today’s society.  I am a big fan of programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters.  For those in Middle Tennessee, here is a link to BBBS: https://mentorakid.org/.  A brief google search turned up other opportunities in Nashville such as a mentoring needs through the YMCA, the Reach & Rise Individual Mentorship (https://www.hon.org/opportunity/a0CA000000Z2HC1MAN), and volunteering through the Tennessee Scholars program (https://www.tn.gov/tnpromise/volunteers.html). 

Some neat opportunities in the Atlanta area include the following:

In Huntsville, Alabama, here are some ideas:

 For Tampa and Orlando, consider these mentoring opportunities:

 Check out these other sites for a database of mentoring opportunities:

The possibilities are endless.  What is available in your area, and where do you want to make an impact (while being impacted yourself)?  To discover whether mentoring or some other type of activity will lead to your ideal retirement, Our Return on Life and Retirement Coaching tools can help you identify new ways to put your most valuable skills into action and add a rewarding new dimension to your retirement.