Mentoring is a win-win situation that could bring career success to both mentors and mentees.
The right mentor can catapult your career to the next level. Even Warren Buffett – one of the most famous investors of all time – attributes many of his achievements to his mentor, Benjamin Graham, who guided him on his path to success.
However, mentorship isn’t always a one-way street. Though mentees benefit from mentors’ knowledge and guidance, mentors often feel equally rewarded watching their protégés take their teachings and run with them. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what mentorship is and how it could benefit both parties.
What Is Mentorship, and How Does It Work?
Mentorship is when someone with more knowledge and skills (the mentor) provides guidance and support to someone typically less experienced (the mentee). A mentor will often take the mentee under their wing and help them grow and achieve their goals – whether that be professional, academic or personal.
Mentorship programs in formal settings like the workplace provide an excellent opportunity for knowledge and skill-sharing. For example, a mentor-mentee relationship between a senior software engineer and a junior engineer could include weekly check-ins. During these meetings, the mentor may discuss details of work projects with their mentee and provide feedback on completed tasks or strategies for tackling future assignments.
Informal mentorships outside the workplace are typically less structured and more organic. For example, if you’re an aspiring cook, your mentor might be a seasoned home chef in your circle who could show you the ropes. Or, if you’re a first-year medical student, you could seek mentorship from a fourth-year medical student and meet up once a month to touch base and discuss topics related to coursework.
The Benefits of Being a Mentor
Mentoring relationships are typically mutually beneficial, and mentors often find that they learn as much from mentees as the other way around. If you’re considering becoming a mentor, here are some reasons why it’s a good idea:
Enhanced Leadership Skills
Mentorship is a great way to develop and hone your leadership skills. By taking on the role of a mentor, you’ll gain valuable insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a leader as you go through the dynamic process of teaching and exchanging ideas with your mentee. You’ll also develop confidence and empathy in a way that allows you to better lead a team in the future.
Gaining New Perspectives
Mentors provide invaluable support and guidance to mentees eager to learn a new skill or trade. However, as a mentor, it’s easy to become stuck in your own ways after working in a specific industry for so long. In this case, having a mentee could inject fresh ideas into the conversation, challenging you to think beyond what you know and consider new perspectives.
Increased Happiness and Sense of Purpose
The saying “there is more happiness in giving than receiving” really does hold true. Research by psychologists from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management found that we experience longer-lasting happiness by giving to others rather than receiving.
By giving away your knowledge to mentees who need it, not only will you contribute to their positive growth, but you might also create a newfound purpose and happiness in your life. Rachel Neill, CEO of Carex Consulting Group, wrote in an email: “Mentoring brings me joy and fills me with purpose. It helps me achieve a different type of success – one that can’t be measured with awards, profits, contracts, and revenue.”
The Benefits of Being a Mentee
Many preach the importance of having a mentor. But what are the benefits, and how does being a mentee help unlock your potential?
Having Proper Guidance
Without guidance, it’s easy to take the wrong turns and waste precious time on your journey to success. Having a mentor gives you a leg up since they can help you identify the blind spots and show you where to focus your energy. And while plenty of people achieve success on their own, having a mentor can fast-track your progress and cut months – or even years – off the learning curve.
So if you’ve been feeling stuck or struggling to make progress in your career or other endeavors, consider finding a mentor who can point you in the right direction.
One of the most significant benefits of having a mentor is having access to the mentor’s network that they’ve built over their career. A mentor’s contacts are like gold. Jeroen De Koninck, the founder of the career accelerator Preppally and a mentor who helps young professionals land jobs at top tech companies like Google, knows this all too well. He has seen how connecting his mentees with his contacts allowed them to unlock career opportunities they may have never had without it.
“Most of my mentees are extremely talented,” De Koninck says. However, because they come from less-privileged backgrounds, they often “don’t have direct access to the social network that could help them land their dream jobs.” To level the playing field, De Koninck uses his connections to open doors for his mentees and propel their careers forward.
An Insider’s Look Into a Desired Role or Company
It pays to have a mentor if you want to break into a new career field or switch to a new company. Kirk Hazlett, a communications professor at The University of Tampa, says mentors can provide “an insider’s look into the role and organization” the mentee aspires to join.
“Because every organization differs in often unseen but set-in-stone expectations,” having a mentor who has worked in a specific company or role can give you insight into your desired position. Think of it like you’re getting the inside scoop.
How to Start a Mentorship Program
Starting a mentorship program can be a great way to give back to your community. Before jumping in, take some time to think about how you want the program to work.
For example, will there be applications or interviews for potential mentees? What is the main communication method between you and the mentees? How many mentees are you able to take on at a time? What is the core focus of the mentorship program, and what goals do you wish to accomplish? Answering these questions will help you better organize the structure of your program.
How to Find a Mentor
Before finding a mentor, clearly understand what you want to gain from this experience. Are you seeking insight into a specific career path or industry, or do you need an accountability partner to help achieve your goals? Once you’ve got that down, start by brainstorming contacts with experience and expertise in the area that interests you.
Then, put yourself out there. Reach out to potential mentors on LinkedIn and start building a relationship with them. Remember, don’t immediately ask the person to become your mentor in your first message since it could come off as pushy. Focus on introducing yourself and showing a genuine interest in what they do. You could also find mentors offline by attending networking events in your field of interest.
Mentorship Is a Win-Win Relationship
A successful mentor-mentee relationship can benefit both parties: Mentees gain knowledge, connections, and support that no textbook or online tutorial could offer, while mentors find a sense of purpose and hone their soft skills while passing along their knowledge. So, if you’re ready to take your career or other pursuits to the next level, consider finding a mentor or becoming one – it may be the catalyst you need.