“Zoom” in on Mentorships: How to Create and Maintain Mentor Relationships in Pandemic

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Mentorships on Zoom and Online Courses

Our “new normal” brought about by the global coronavirus pandemic has made the ways we connect with each other a little bit different. Communication, however, is not only still doable but also very important.

I have spent much of my career researching the value of both finding a mentor and being a mentor. Those who build a network of mentor relationships are far more engaged in their jobs, find more meaning in their work, and receive bigger paychecks and more rapid promotions. That’s why it is very important that while we are staying home, we maintain our existing mentorships, as well as build new ones.

I have compiled several tips to help you stay in contact with your mentor during these changing times, in addition to ways we can use this opportunity to learn and grow:

  1. Schedule a Zoom Date

Setting up a Zoom meeting with your mentor is probably the most obvious tip, however it is also the most important! In pre-pandemic days, proteges used to trek to their mentor’s favorite local coffee shop, their office, their children’s water-polo practice, etc. in order to make the meeting super easy for the mentor to attend. Connecting face-to-face in this way was a key method in building and solidifying a personal and professional relationship.

As in-person contact has become less safe, Zoom and Facetime calls are providing the interaction we need. This is one of the reasons dating during quarantine has become very popular. Dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge have seen impressive spikes in the number of users during stay-at-home orders, as people hope to connect during these unusual times.

Ultimately, in order to keep your mentorship alive, it is super important to maintain contact. And just like any other meeting you have with your mentor, be prepared to check in, provide updates about yourself and have questions ready.

  1. Send a Handwritten Note

If you have your mentor’s address, sending a handwritten note can be an excellent way to connect. You can use the opportunity to provide gratitude for their help and may consider adding a (sanitized) gift card as an additional thank you. Even though we are unable now to shake hands or embrace, we can repurpose older modes of communication to add a personal touch.

  1. Provide a LinkedIn Endorsement or Recommendation

LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to boost a connection’s profile by either endorsing them for a skill or writing a recommendation. If your mentor is someone you used to or currently work for, writing a recommendation can be a great way to show gratitude, as well as enhance the relationship. If you have not worked with your mentor, consider taking just a few minutes to highlight how they have helped you grow.

In addition, endorsing your mentor for skills that you can account for (i.e. communication, public speaking, time management) is another powerful – and quick – way to show your thanks.

  1. Venmo Money for Lunch

Wired recently wrote an article about the “Good Venmo”: an act of sending some money to uplift a friend. The Venmo message can be practical, personal or sometimes even funny (i.e. the Wired writer’s friend sent her a quarter so she could buy a temporary tattoo). A protégé therefore might consider sending money to their mentor so they can order carryout from their favorite restaurant, while you speak on the phone.

  1. Connect with Your Dream (But Faraway) Mentor

Rather than looking at this time as a deterrent to forming meaningful mentorships, we actually can find it as a unique opportunity to connect with someone who lives far away! Consider that person you are connected with on LinkedIn, who lives a few states over but has the career you dream of. Now is a fantastic time to reach out and set up a Zoom call. It is often said that people are more open to helping now, given the challenging job market. See my article with CNN Money for advice on how to email  a potential new mentor.

For more tips on how to be an excellent mentee, take my LinkedIn Learning course, which can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/being-a-good-mentee/welcome?u=42252777. You can also view my other articles and online courses here.