Some of the most successful leaders of our time cite a mentor as critical to their achievements. Often, these mentors serve as a sounding board, gatekeeper to opportunities, or source of thoughtful critique. But you may be wondering what you have to offer, especially if you don’t view yourself as mentor material.
The truth is, mentors from all walks of life, fields of study, and levels of experience are needed in high-performing organizations. Mentorships certainly provide a significant benefit to the mentee, who’s hoping to grow, learn, and develop. But mentors have a lot to gain, too, and in more ways than you may think.
1. You’ll Develop Essential Leadership Skills
If you’ve been identified as a potential mentor, you likely exhibit noteworthy leadership skills. Whether you’re currently a team leader or not, the way you present yourself and your expertise at work are noticeable. But the leadership muscles you’ll stretch as a mentor differ greatly from those you use on the job.
One of the perks of mentoring is the freedom you’ll gain from providing feedback without job performance on the line. Mentorship strips away the responsibility of setting goals based on the company’s strategic plan. Rather, you and your mentee can craft more organic and customized development objectives. While you’ll still keep the organization’s goals in mind, doing so with less emphasis on performance and more focus on growth is freeing.
Apply traditional leadership skills to help your mentee define what they hope to gain from the relationship. Keep each other accountable and decrease the stress of managing the details by using a mentoring platform. Set goals together based on their role, aspirations, and the mentorship program structure defined by your organization. Identify milestones, projects, and research activities that allow you and your mentee to collaborate and grow together.
2. You Can Gain New Skills and Perspective
With years of experience and a track record of enviable results, it’s fair to say you’ve carved out your spot professionally. Sometimes, though, this depth of expertise can breed complacency and a reluctance to learn new things. Mentoring can broaden your perspective in ways you’d never discover otherwise.
Exposure to new people, ideas, and life experiences can be harder to come by the higher your rank. Leaders can quickly become insulated from the daily demands of junior-level work. This distance can result in a clouded judgment and limited empathy.
Spending one-on-one time with your mentee can introduce fresh ideas and challenge your thinking. Your mentee shouldn’t be the only one who asks questions. Flip the script and offer them the opportunity to provide the answers. Their fresh take on longstanding problems may just be the insight you needed.
Beyond technology and emerging trends, your counterpart may have knowledge of novel approaches to problem solving, collaboration, and work-life balance. What you take on from the relationship will likely show up in how you handle your daily responsibilities. Over time, you may well see your work improve thanks to what your mentee has taught you.
3. You Can Increase Your Career Satisfaction
Even in the most prestigious and respected roles, the daily grind can get old. Suddenly, the predictability of the workday and the demands of meeting quarterly goals aren’t enough. You may even be considering a job change, despite the fact that everything else looks good on paper. Before you contact that headhunter, consider whether taking on a mentoring role could add meaning to your career.
Mentoring is an act of service that challenges both the mentor and mentee to think differently. While you aren’t expected to have all the answers, it is your responsibility to hold your mentee accountable. Maintain a consistent meeting schedule, driven by an agenda that includes plenty of time for open dialogue. Take notes to ensure you treat the engagement just as you would any other important business relationship. Doing so gives your mentee the best chance at achieving their desired outcomes and developmental goals.
While you work with your mentee, you may discover a renewed sense of purpose in your daily work. The opportunity to pass on years of knowledge, your unique perspective, and personal experience can give your career greater meaning.
Careers aren’t linear, and your path to where you are today is rife with lessons to share. Articulating challenges and what it took to work through them can offer invaluable insight to a malleable mind. When you see your efforts manifest in your mentee’s development, you’ll experience a satisfaction even the most exciting project can’t match.
Mentoring Is an Honor and a Privilege
At times, you may welcome the challenge of helping to shape your mentee into their best professional self. Other times, it may test your patience, understanding, and long-established beliefs. No matter the emotions you experience in the thick of your program, there’s a good chance that you’ll both end up better for it.
When you’re approached about serving as a mentor, consider saying yes, even if you aren’t sure you’re game. Lean on the leaders of your organization’s mentorship program for guidance and the resources they provide new mentors. When you’re matched with your mentee, approach the relationship with a willingness to be vulnerable. Together, you’ll embark on a journey toward growth, discovery, and a brighter future.