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What You Give and Receive Through Mentoring

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I’ve always believed that the relationships and lasting connections formed while mentoring are the ultimate reward. On one hand, a mentee gets the direct benefit of advice from a seasoned professional and can make career strides that might not have otherwise been possible without guidance. The pride of watching a junior grow and thrive is incredibly fulfilling; after all, it’s been well-established that it’s better to give than to receive.

However, this doesn’t mean mentees are the only ones rewarded for being part of a mentoring relationship. Mentors find that the more they give to their protégés, the more they get back as well. Mentoring is a two-way street, and being an effective teacher to a younger colleague will allow you to receive just as much as you give.

What You Give: Better Communication Skills

Mentors can do no better than to help their students develop strong communication skills. The world is driven by interpersonal relationships, and knowing how to connect and engage meaningfully with others is an ability that benefits everyone, no matter where they are in their career.

Good communication is consistently ranked as one of the most important skills an employee can have. It’s at the core of everything they do. Even if they sit at their cubicle all day long, they still spend the majority of their time talking to people over the phone or by email. 

Ideal mentorships provide judgment-free zones for mentees to work on these essential traits. While mentors should certainly take the lead in guiding and teaching their students, it’s important to recognize their progress and eventually treat them more as equals than pupils. This encourages students to have more confidence in their interactions, leading to improved networking skills and an overall greater initiative in their work. 

As such, they’re more likely to form a bond with your company, which will result in less turnover. Since the cost of replacing an employee is, according to Employee Benefit News, approximately $15,000 each, this is critical.

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

What You Receive: New Perspectives 

Generational gaps naturally lead to significant divergences in thinking. This is especially true for recent generations who grew up surrounded by the constant advancements in technology. Compared to generations who grew up before computers, they have a different perspective. 

Whatever the case may be, both you and your mentee are unique people with a variety of experiences that have shaped who you are and how you work. Even though you’re the one teaching, there’s plenty you can learn from mentoring a junior employee. In particular, the act of mentoring can reveal bad habits or outdated methods of thinking that you might be unwittingly carrying around. They say it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but mentoring younger workers challenges traditional structures and ushers in innovation.  

Engaging with a mentee means that you have to think critically and be mindful of what you’re saying. Does the advice that you’ve followed in your career still apply, or has the landscape changed so much that it’s no longer relevant? Can your advice be adjusted, or do you have to approach it from a totally new angle? Listening to your younger mentee can help you gain a new perspective on the insights you’ve picked up throughout the years.

What You Give: Support in Times of Stress and Anxiety

While efforts in recent years have been deeply focused on removing the stigma of discussing mental health in the workplace, it remains a subject that is uncomfortable for some to broach. As a result, one in five workers who suffer from mental health issues can end up suffering in silence, according to Kaiser Permanente.

Mentorships are special relationships that circumvent the typical authority dynamic. It’s not uncommon for a mentor and mentee to become close friends to the point where both parties feel completely comfortable sharing personal information and expressing fears and doubts. 

With this in mind, mentors should strive to be a source of support and encouragement. 

As someone with years or even decades more experience than a mentee, you can assuage the worries of younger workers. Failures or missteps can feel devastating to them, but you can provide a long-term perspective that will help them realize it’s not the end of the world.

Mentoring a colleague can also relieve stress and anxiety for the mentor. Studies have demonstrated that mentors find their interactions with their juniors to be therapeutic, showing that these kinds of bonds can help destigmatize stress and anxiety for everyone involved.

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” – Bob Proctor

What You Receive: Greater Success Throughout Your Career

When all is said and done, the benefits of mentoring are quite tangible for both you and your mentee. According to a study by Forbes, mentors were six times more likely to earn promotions than those who did not mentor; likewise, mentees were five times more likely to earn promotions than non-mentees. This just goes to show how vital strong, interpersonal relationships can be in a person’s growth and improvement, especially in their careers.

I’m always inclined to say that my own growth is a byproduct of mentorship, but the personal and professional development it gives you, even as you get further into your career, is nothing to scoff at. By focusing on giving your time and energy to others as a mentor, you’ll not only discover the joy of being a part of a person’s development, but also fully realize your own growth as a worker, leader, and person.

Have you ever had/been a mentor? If so, share your thoughts on mentorship with us below!

Tim Gentry is a Washington, DC-based business consultant who currently advises the software companies Perfecta and tagSpace. A thought leader in value-chain disruption and protection measurements, he is also Northeast Regional chair of Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), a global leadership community of chief executives.

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