A mentor, according to various dictionary definitions, is a trusted counselor or guide. Its origins go all the way back to ancient Greece to convey spiritual, social, and personal values on young men, according to Catherine Yang at Ohio State University who, with Susan E. Metros, wrote a report called “The Importance of Mentors.” Today, mentoring is “loosely modeled on the historical craftsman/apprentice relationship, where young people learn a trade by shadowing a master artisan,” the report says. But mentoring is more than the opportunity to share knowledge, experience, and insight with others. The reward is a two-way street: The mentor often grows just as much as the mentee, and both lives are enriched by the relationship.
Here are five reasons why you should become involved in mentoring if you have the chance.
Continued Personal Development
Sharing your experience and knowledge in a one-on-one situation helps bring out the talents and gifts of another, helping him or her to identify strengths as well as areas for improvement. That process can also highlight where we still have room to grow or encourage us to take part in professional development to further our skills. Not only does mentoring highlight areas for improvement, but it provides an opportunity to practice and perfect other skills. By actively working with a mentee, it will refine your leadership and communication abilities along with many other attributes.
Push Your Comfort Zone
We often learn by teaching. Mentoring should often take both mentee and mentor out of their comfort zones. Stretch yourself. Teaching others shows you what you know and what you don’t know. Recognizing when we, too, have something new to learn is inspiring and motivating. You may also find yourself in a new environment, with potentially new technology and techniques than what you have known before. As a mentor, it provides the opportunity for you to re-integrate with your field and learn about new advancements that you may not have been aware of before. In the long run, this will benefit your own career or business by making you better at what you do.
Do Good, Feel Good
Giving back to your professional community by focusing on the development of another, is rewarding in the sense that you have helped someone become better at what he or she does. But the experience also makes you, the mentor, happier. When invested in the success of others, you will become more aware of the energy and goodness of the world around you. The people you work with as a mentor, and you personally will appreciate your role in making the world a better place.
Increase Your Connections
As a mentor, it is your job to introduce your mentee to your network, and open as many doors as possible for them. Throughout that process, you, the mentor, will also expand your own professional network and make new connections with other like-minded professionals. Mentoring builds community, whether in the workplace or a school or an organization. The more meaningful the connections that are made, the more we personalize a world that technology is rendering increasingly impersonal. Creating bridges that connect generations, skills, knowledge, and perspectives ensures that we are invested in each other’s success and growth.
Solidify Your Legacy
All successful professionals have clearly determined and met goals along the path of their career. Towards the end of your career, you may be less concerned with achieving new goals, and more focused on the mark, or legacy, that you are leaving behind in your industry. Mentoring is part of your legacy. Knowing you’ve helped lay a path to success — that you’ve made a difference individually and collectively — is professionally and personally fulfilling and sustaining. And if you’re retired, it also keeps you involved and reassures you that you’re still valuable and contributing to society.
Mentoring brings many untold gifts to the mentor. It brings perspective into your world because you can see it through another’s eyes. It shines a light on your gifts and positive attributes while bringing out the best in others. It is motivational and reinvigorating: you give direction and choices, but at the end of the day, your mentee is taking those lessons to step out on his or her own. Plus, it provides a gateway to lifelong learning, an exciting process that keeps us curious and interested in the world around us.