Email communication is still one of the most popular ways to connect with co-workers, including mentors. One study found that 77 percent of people prefer to use email at work. For workplace mentoring program participants who are engaged in cross-country or long-distance mentorships, email can be the best way to stay in touch.
When using email to communicate with your mentor or mentee it is important to understand some basic protocol as well as the different types of emails that can be part of the mentorship process.
When developing a workplace mentorship program, some companies will need to consider e-mentoring possibilities. There are a few ways that mentoring over distances is different than a more traditional mentorship where the participants have an opportunity to meet often.
The first difference is that it can take more time to develop a relationship. Building trust and getting comfortable with one another can be a little more challenging over email. But, it is possible if you are committed to mentorship.
Another significant difference is that your communication will be slower. Most likely, you are in different time zones and so communicating in real-time is not possible. This means that there may be a lag in getting a response from your mentor or mentee. Practice patience.
Some ways that you can make mentoring work better over email includes:
The type of email you use to communicate with your mentor will be different depending on your relationship. From the initial contact to regular correspondence, the tone of your email will reflect the changing character of your mentorship. Whether you are contacting a potential mentor for the first time or sending a final thank you, how you communicate will change.
Initial mentorship request - For mentees, this initial email can be one of the biggest challenges they face in searching for a mentor. Some people spend hours or days trying to decide what to say. However, there are ways to make the process easier. Start by familiarizing yourself with the potential mentor. Get to know their work and be clear about why you are contacting them specifically. What do you hope they can teach you? Creating the right mentor-mentee match can be made easier with mentoring software such as Together. The program has the capability to find mentor-mentee matches that work in just minutes. During the first email, don’t ask them to invest in a mentorship right away, rather, ask them a few questions and see if they are willing to talk to you for a few minutes. Let things grow from there. Don’t forget to respond to any communication with a big thank you to your mentor. This will let them know that you appreciate their time and build a good rapport between the two of you.
Updates for your mentor - Once you have established a relationship, keeping your mentor up-to-date on what is happening is a good way to build on the connection you have. Let them know the steps you have taken to meet your goals and the outcome of your efforts. You can also send them messages to let them in on good news after it happens, such as getting a promotion or raise.
Change of meeting plans - If you and your mentor have made plans to meet either in person or via video conferencing, it is key to let them know immediately if those plans change. When you send this message make sure the subject line indicates the nature of the email so that your mentor/mentee doesn’t overlook it. Also, be concise but be mindful that your message doesn’t sound impolite.
Thanking your mentor - Thanking your mentor for the time they invested in you is an important way to wrap up the mentorship. Mentors are busy people who give their time to mentees freely. Regardless of whether the mentorship lasted a few weeks, months or longer, demonstrating your appreciation of their commitment to helping you is the least you can do. So, send that final email to your mentoring letting them know that you enjoyed the experience. You can make it personal by noting some of the things they taught you that you won’t forget.
There is a large volume of emails that we all deal with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this vast amount can cause us to become less contentious of how we are coming across in our email communications. Many of the time we simply give a quick answer without considering how it may be received. However, when it comes to communicating with your mentor, it is important to take some time and send a meaningful message. Here are a few ways to improve your email etiquette:
Respect: Don’t ignore a message from your mentor or mentee. While you might not be able to give them a comprehensive response, simply let them know you received their message and will get back to them a little later. This shows them that you respect them, which is one of the building blocks of good mentorship.
Politeness: Be careful about the language you use in your email. There are some terms that may come off as condescending such as “Does that make sense?” or “Obviously”. Read and re-read your text before you send it to check it over for some of these words or phrases.
Formal: A workplace mentor should never be mistaken for a buddy. In other words, avoid informal language and email communications like emojis, acronyms like LOL and all caps.
Email is one of the best ways that a mentor and mentee can connect over the miles. However, for it to be an effective tool, you need to understand how to use it properly. Knowing when and how to send emails and what not to send can go a long way in helping you develop a successful mentorship over the miles.