In a recent Aeronautics Technical Bulletin article by this author titled; More than 637,000 new opportunities, I said 'there are 637,000 + opportunities for experienced pilots, technicians, or anyone in aviation to talk to young people about the opportunities before them in GA and beyond. You can show them (new potential aviators) what you do in and for aviation. Excite them about the many possibilities and opportunities that are coming available. Help them make a choice, and then be a mentor to them."
An excellent and clear definition of what a mentor truly is, or should be, can be found in Air Force Manual 36-2643. I present that definition here: "Mentors are advisors and guides who share knowledge, experiences, and advice in helping mentees achieve their career goals. Effective mentoring creates a balanced ongoing relationship that focuses on the unique needs of the mentee."
Author Val DiFebo, writing for Fortune magazine said, "Good mentors should believe in their mentees enough to take risks for them. That means introducing them to people who could be helpful to their careers, passing on their resumes to your contact at a company they're interested in, letting them shadow or attend meetings with you or pointing them toward a conference or program that could enrich their careers."
While all that Mr. DiFebo suggests might not be possible for you to do, it is important that you do a little more than just give advice, whenever you can. Your positive action is a clear indication to your mentee that you are actively involved and truly care about guiding them to successful career options. It also shows that you are willing to help them navigate to successful personal growth and achievement toward their stated goals.
As a mentor, it is vitally important that you are honest and upfront with your mentee. Be sure to make honest and realistic time commitments. Set realistic goals. Make clear to your mentee what you are truly willing to do. Avoid over committing and then failing to do those things you committed to. Also set realistic expectations for yourself and the mentee. In other words let your mentee know at the outset who and what you are willing and able to introduce them to. This will significantly reduce, if not eliminate, their expectation or dreams that you can take them to the top person in a company, introduce them, and get them a job. Unless, in fact, you can and you are willing to do exactly that!
Always be an active listener. That means making a direct effort to pay close attention to what your mentee is saying. Active listening also means consciously hearing the words of the speaker before deciding what to say in response. Take time to ask them questions so you can be sure you understand their points and points of view, but don't hesitate to be a sounding board for them. Never assume anything about your mentee. If you don't know or don't understand something about them, simply ask.
Always be "straight up" with your mentee. Tell them the whole story, including not just the good but also the not so good. Help them to learn from the challenges and obstacles you faced. Help them to understand and learn from your mistakes, too. Avoid "glossing over" or "sugar coating" issues they will likely face. Remember they want, expect, and deserve the truth.
In an article by Rebecca Corliss, who leads team development and culture for HubSpot's marketing team, she says, "Being open to sharing your own mistakes and failures is one of the best gifts a mentor can give. Not only is it helpful information for problem-solving purposes, but it also helps build trust, gives them permission to share their own mistakes, and strengthens the relationship overall."
Writer Leslie Ye, who writes for HubSpot's Sales Blog says, "Hearing how someone else approached a challenge is always helpful for someone going through it for the first time." Even if you don't solve problems the same way as your mentee, it's always useful to hear multiple perspectives.
Finally, let your actions demonstrate your quality and caring. Always lead by example. Be consistent. Your mentee(s) will be observing you, your habits and actions. They will be watching how you treat others, so always be respectful. The mentee will also be listening to you and what you say not only to them, but also to others. They will discover facts about you in the process and will try to emulate what they see and believe to be your values, standards, and methods. So always give them your best. Be professional in your interactions with them and others. And make sure your mentee knows they have your ear.
By mentoring today's youth, you will be helping them find their path and become excellent and productive citizens. If their passion drives them to discover aviation, who knows: you may be helping to mold and shape the next Chuck Yeager, Julie Clark, Patty Wagstaff, or Sully Sullenberger.
When you mentor and guide youth toward careers in aviation, you will be helping aviation grow and prosper in your community, at your local airport, and throughout the state and nation. Now you see why mentoring is a key to success.