The benefits of mentoring – as both mentee and mentor
Mentoring does not always have to be done in a formal way or through your workplace. Although some employers do offer mentoring schemes that are extremely valuable growth opportunities, you can also take finding a good mentor into your own hands. There are reasons why you would do that too… For example, internal mentors within your organisation may lack confidentiality or impartiality.
How to find a mentor
Did you go to a conference (virtual, of course, recently) and connect with someone amazing, and never follow up? Have you seen someone speak or read someone’s book, but you never reached out? Followed and idolised a role model online somewhere? Those chances to connect personally could well be missed opportunities for mentorship – and for progressing your career and life forwards. Most people will be more than happy to help you, and the worst that can come from it is just a simple ‘no’ – and you move on. It really can be that simple to find a fantastic mentor.
The benefits of mentoring
A mentor is defined as someone that encourages and guides a person’s professional and personal development through the sharing of their experience, knowledge and expertise. There are probably already instances your life where you have been mentored in more of a passive capacity without realising. However, the true benefit to outsourcing – so to speak – a mentor (in that they are disconnected from your professional or personal life intimately) is the new perspective that you gain, the unbiased suggestions and the open-minded approach. When it comes to career progression, mentoring becomes hugely important.
The benefits of being a mentee:
- It’s a chance to reflect without personal or organisational judgement
- You are being challenged – in a positive way – on your ways of thinking or doing things
- You are learning new ideas and perspectives and gaining their unique experience
- It’s a positive space dedicated to your personal growth and empowerment
- It’s an opportunity to discuss your career path and best options
- It builds your confidence as you gain clarity on your strengths and behaviours
- Increased connections and future opportunities through that person
In your search, however, for increased confidence, clarity and knowledge, don’t forget to pay it forward – by becoming a mentor yourself. Although initially you may think you have nothing to offer (which comes from self-doubt and a lack of confidence), you will quickly realise that there are many people that could benefit from a chat with you. Reflect on your experiences, your strengths and your personality, and think, ‘Who could I help?’ It could be someone below you on the career ladder, or someone going through a struggle that you overcame, or someone looking for a career change to your industry, for example. Be open to both receiving mentorship and giving it. If confidence is a barrier, becoming a mentor will actually force you to recognise your worth and increase your self-confidence as a happy side-effect.
As Nichola Johnson Marshall, Career Coach and Working Wonder founder, said in our recent career obstacle interview, she always asks those that approach her for mentoring to pay it forward. Her acceptance is conditional in that her mentees agree to mentor someone else in return, and so there is an ongoing chain community of mentorship and self-development happening. If Nichola’s mentee is unsure or doesn’t know someone that they can mentor, Nichola will find someone for them – how great is that? It’s a huge confidence builder – that your mentor, your role model, the person you’re going to for advice, thinks you have the ability and knowledge to be a mentor yourself.
The benefits of being a mentor:
- Develop your listening, communication and coaching skills
- Gain new perspectives and reflect on your own goals and strengths
- Promoting empowerment and self-development
- Gaining new connections and future opportunities
We asked four professionals to tell us their experience of mentorship. They discuss what it has meant to them, why they have done it and share their biggest successes.
Andrea Goodridge, Leadership Coach
“For the past six years, I’ve mentored a range of people including aspiring leaders and business owners, young unemployed people, and a women’s group. The concept of giving back started in my upbringing, where if we had something we could give to others to extend their horizons, open their heart and get them to think, we just did it. Being a mentor is something I find incredibly energising, and I’m always inspired by the people I support. To be honest, I think I learn as much from my mentees as they learn from me – if not more! It gives you exposure to new ways of looking at things.
“The fresh perspective that comes from my mentees helps me see things in a new light and enriches my own leadership practice. Above all, the relationship you build with your mentees is long lasting. I’ve been privileged to see people step out of their comfort zones, explore areas they never even thought about, work to their strengths and start to flourish as a result. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to do this and get so much energy from seeing them progress. There’s something incredibly rewarding about playing a part in helping someone develop. Taking an active role in someone’s business or personal development can be one of the most inspiring things you ever do.”
“I chose to become a mentor as I have gained enormous value as a mentee and have experience how beneficial it can be on the receiving end of some advice, particular in the early stages. The biggest success from it is seeing a mentee clear on decisions with how to proceed with a particular stuck point or when they are indecisive on which path to take. I have been on both ends and when you become frozen you don’t want to make the wrong decision… Bouncing your thoughts off someone who has some experience often gives you the confidence to make a call.”
“I was inspired to mentor when I recognised the informal mentorship from Mark Hale, my boss in my early Co-op days. More than 15 years on, when struggling, I still ask myself ‘What would Mark do?’ For me, there is nothing so rewarding as to help someone develop and gain confidence. Recently I supported someone who hadn’t been able to get a job in 5 months due to the pandemic. I didn’t know him, I just offered to help review his CV and talked through his aspirations and strengths. When he rang to let me know he had been offered a job, I was dancing around the kitchen with a smile on my face. As a leader, I strongly believe in a coaching culture. When embraced, a coaching culture drives creative problem solving, discovery and adaptation; something we need in spades in this complex, fast-paced and uncertain world.”
Zoe Piper, Advisor, Investor and Director, Delmata
“It is easy to take for granted the knowledge and skills you have developed over the years. However, mentoring provides a great opportunity to reflect on your expertise and allow others to learn from your experience (both the good and the bad!). Having participated in both formal and informal mentoring over the years, I’ve found it very rewarding to be able to give back. It’s also helped in expanding my networks and learning more about different industries.
“My own career certainly hasn’t followed a linear path, instead I’ve pursued a diverse range of concurrent appointments, including both my own ventures and working for others. Adopting such a broad career approach does make it challenging to find a single mentor to work with. However, I’ve found great value in investing in a broad network of connections from a wide variety of backgrounds. This has allowed me to tap into advice from a diverse range of perspectives, and to speak with the most relevant person for the particular issue at hand.”