Setting Mentoring Goals (Part 2 of 2)

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

            In the last newsletter, I wrote about the role setting goals plays in a productive mentoring partnership. In this issue, I take a look at the process of working with career goals in the mentoring context. 

1.   Create an environment for goal setting: The first thing to do is encourage your protégé to set goals. For some protégés, this comes naturally. For others, it can be difficult. Some may actively resist setting goals. Resistance may come from a fear of failure, fear of success, a desire to keep options open, or tendency to avoid details. For those protégés, the key is to encourage without pushing. Reinforce that these are their goals and they can change them over time. The goals will help provide a meaningful context for your mentoring conversations.

2.   Start 3 to 5 years out: Have your protégé frame the near-term goals (less than 12 months) within the context of larger career goals (three to five years). Help your protégé to visualize what success looks like.  Ask them to create a motivating place toward which she or he is working. Then, define the end state independent of the means to get there, as there may be many possible routes to success.

3.   Create short-term milestones: Only after the larger goals have been established should your protégé work on the near term goals that are along the way. At this point you can help make sure the short-term goals the protégé has are aligned with the longer term career goals. You should provide a valuable reality check, helping the protégé make sure he or she doesn’t shoot too high or too low.

4.   Follow-up: As you know, setting goals is the beginning, not an end in itself. Part of the reason we struggle with our goals is because day-to-day life gets in the way. A mentor creates a space for the protégé to think about these larger goals by asking about what progress is being made and what is being done to get there. Having someone else who cares about their goals can be a tremendous motivator to protégés.

            Helping a protégé set goals and creating accountability for the accomplishment of those goals is one of the greatest gifts a mentor can give. The process sets direction, creates motivation, provides encouragement, and affords the opportunity to celebrate successes.