Having a mentor is invaluable. You know that. You’ve built your network to include several mentors who support, guide, and encourage you. You’ve reaped the rewards. Your mentor(s) has expertly walked that delicate balance of inspiring you while simultaneously helping to keep you grounded. You have no doubt that you have gotten where you are today due in part to your mentor. What you might not realize, however, is that the mentor-mentee relationship is one of mutual benefit. Your support network gets as much benefit out of helping guide you as you get from it.
Improved Listening Skills
Good mentors listen more than they talk. Often, we give others one ear while our minds begin to piece together our response. Your mentor has to push that tendency aside and really focus on what you are saying. This ability to be an active listener is a fantastic career skill that will help your mentor far beyond your tête-à-tête.
Relearn the Little Things
When you’ve been endeavoring through your own career for some time, there are little things that get lost along the way. There are process steps you take for granted. Short cuts you’ve developed. Skills you learned to do without. Stepping back from the rote routine as a mentor can return focus to the little things that get left behind. In doing so, your mentor may discover forgotten skills or process steps that can be reintroduced into their day-to-day routines and improve their own outcomes.
Learn New (maybe even big) Things
The mentor-mentee relationship is a give-and-take dynamic. Maybe you’re more comfortable with technology than your mentor. Texting or using social media to connect is your natural go-to method of communicating but it might be unfamiliar territory for your mentor. This relationship gives your mentor the opportunity to test the waters and build a comfort level with technology they haven’t had cause to use before. Or maybe it’s something even bigger than that. Regardless, this relationship leads to a mutual exchange of ideas and support. The more you and your mentor work together, the more your strengths and skill sets become a learning ground for your mentor and vice versa.
Hone Leadership Skills
Not every mentor sports a management title, but they are putting their leadership skills to use. Being your mentor creates the opportunity for someone to develop or improve the skills to oversee and guide others. In addition, being able to include this mentoring relationship on a resume or in an interview conversation can give professional credibility for those who have not yet held an official management title.
Renewed Vigor and Enthusiasm
Helping guide and encourage you, can remind your mentor why they went into this profession in the first place. She’s been working in marketing for decades and the day-to-day routines, the repeated challenges, the budget frustrations, the difficult clients or employees, and litany of other things can start to wear thin after a while. Having the opportunity to walk alongside someone who is just beginning this journey (or is at least earlier into it) can remind your mentor why she got into this field in the first place.
Gain a New Perspective
Good mentors know that it’s important to look at a situation or opportunity from your perspective, not theirs. Being able to step outside of one’s self and look at things from someone else’s vantage point is a value skill. For one thing, it helps us be more empathetic (and that can pay off in spades for any career!). Your mentor can also improve her own problem-solving skills by being able to step away from her normal vantage point and look at a situation from many different angles.
Expand Her Network
You are a talented professional with your own network – some of that overlaps with your mentor’s – but not all of it. Developing a mentoring relationship with you also expands your mentor’s professional network.
A Bottom-Line Boost
As if all those skills and connections weren’t enough, mentoring may lead to a boost in the paycheck, too. Sun Microsystems looked at the career progress of mentors and mentees across a five-year period. They discovered that mentors were 20% more likely than non-mentors to get a raise and six times more likely to be promoted. By the way, the company found similar benefits for mentees: 20% more likely to get a raise than those who did not received mentorship and five times more likely to get promoted.
Here’s a great idea: You’ve already experienced the benefits of being a mentee. How about sharing the wealth (and reaping more reward) by giving back and guiding another?