What do you think of when you think of a traditional mentor? A teacher? Coach? Motivator? Although mentors can take on many of these roles, a good mentor is also a learner.
Whilst working with the right mentor can help mentees learn, overcome obstacles, and ultimately advance in their career, mentoring can be just as beneficial for the mentor. As a mentor, you are investing in your own personal growth — your self-confidence, self-awareness, leadership skills, communication and listening skills. You may even gain knowledge in an area you weren’t expecting.
“I was looking for a mentor and was then asked to be one. I realised I learned as much about myself from being a mentor as I did from being mentored.” – everywomanAmbassador.
1. YOU’LL HONE YOUR SELF-COACHING SKILLS
Low motivation is a common obstacle to successful goal achievement. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, new research shows that giving advice is an effective tool in overcoming low motivation. A study researching individuals struggling to find employment found that 72% of participants felt more motivated by giving advice than by receiving it. The authors of the study best sum up the power of giving: ‘Our research provides empirical support for an age-old aphorism: it is in giving that we receive.’
HOW DOES THIS WORK?
Being asked for advice boosts people’s confidence and makes them feel influential and powerful. Additionally, giving advice often spurs action: in the process of giving advice, advisors lay out concrete plans of action, which further increases motivation. Ultimately, more confident individuals are more likely to be committed to their goals over time.
2. YOU’LL BECOME MORE INCLUSIVE AS A LEADER AND COLLEAGUE
An important benefit of mentoring others is exposure to different viewpoints. This will help you develop a better understanding of the barriers experienced at other levels of your organisation. Understanding different perspectives at a 1:1 level is an important first step in putting your diversity and inclusion values into practice. In offering yourself up as a mentor, think carefully about who you’re extending the invitation to: are you looking to someone in your own image, or can you cast the net wider?
3. YOU’LL EXPAND YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK
Becoming a mentor means getting to know someone new — or at least getting to know someone better than you did before. As a mentee, you’ll not only develop your relationship with your individual mentee; it’s likely you’ll also follow conversations in other directions, such as if you set about trying to find new connections for your mentee. This can sometimes mean reconnecting with colleagues from your past, or actively seeking out new contacts in different fields.
The opportunities afforded by the virtual world mean that you can widen your geographical reach as a mentor. For example, if your company has international offices, you can broaden your network by learning from others’ cultures and backgrounds.
4. YOU’LL LEARN FROM YOUR MENTEE
Mentoring is never a one-way street. There are bound to be specific skills and knowledge that someone younger or less experienced knows that you don’t yet possess. Getting advice and support in this context is called reverse mentoring. This relationship recognises that there are gaps in skills and knowledge on both sides. Reverse mentoring is very common in areas such as technology or social media, as people who have grown up as digital natives can support older generations.
Don’t assume that you know more than your mentee – thinking beyond the traditional mentoring method may open your mind and enable you to learn more skills.
5. ALL THE BENEFITS WITH LESS TIME COMMITMENT
If you’re someone who wants to take on a mentee but feel you simply don’t have enough time to devote to them, micro mentoring may be an option for you.
One of the myths about mentoring is that it has to be a long-term relationship. However, the benefits of mentoring for both parties can be gained in a short-time period, if appropriate. For example, if someone needs mentoring in the run up to a project deadline or before a job interview, micro mentoring may be the best solution. Another way of doing this is by combining sessions with more than one mentee, if several people need help with the same topic.