What is the importance of having a mentor? Does everyone need one? Should a person have more than one? These are all questions that I have asked in the past and continue to hear from students and professionals to this day.
Before we get started, I wanted to share with you some of the terms I’ll be using. This should help you better understand According to Wikipedia, mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The receiver of mentorship was traditionally referred to as a protégé, or apprentice but with the institutionalization of mentoring the more neutral word “mentee” was invented and is widely used today.
In my opinion, there are really three main benefits of mentorship:
Learn from Career Experience
As a mentee, the professional growth that mentorship fosters is amazing. Mentors are there for you. Ask them how they overcame certain challenges, perhaps a work-related challenge that you’re facing at the moment. People love to talk about themselves, especially when they know someone else is benefitting from the knowledge being shared. It’s also a great way to ask your mentor how they got to where they are today. Find the commonalities with them, and learn how to implement your strengths to get ahead and climb the corporate ladder.
While you’re building this relationship with your mentor, remember that you’re also building your professional network. Keep them in the loop with your career aspirations and goals. Having someone in your corner as a referral can give you that added edge you’re looking for.
Learn from Personal Experience
Some of the best conversations that I’ve had with my mentors over the years don’t necessarily fall under the umbrella of “career advice” and haven’t been tied to a specific company or industry. Instead, it’s been the life lessons that have been passed on to me that I believe I cherish most. Hearing stories about life, love, and family continued to help me develop as a better person. Have you ever talked to someone on the bus, train or airplane? It is truly fascinating how people will share things with perfect strangers. That’s the best part of the human race – we’re conditioned to see the good in everyone and want to nurture them.
Life is too short to go through it scared to talk to anyone or to avoid meeting new people. My advice is to get out there, reach out, and just be nice. A smile goes a long way – it’s made me some of the best friends I have today.
Network Across Business Lines
When most think of mentorship, they automatically think of someone in their field or line of business. While that is beneficial to an extent, breaking out of your professional circle of comfort can bring a much better understanding regarding other industries, business, and fields of study. By breaking outside of this circle, you have the opportunity to connect with others who may see life and business differently, bringing you a unique perspective that you didn’t have before.
An Important Part of the Onboarding Process
Many businesses around the world, Fortune 500 or the small business started by a local entrepreneur, recognize the importance of mentorship. Companies like PepsiCo, Inc., Walmart Stores, Inc., Aflac, Inc., Wells Fargo & Company, and Bimbo Bakeries USA all have programs in place that use mentorship as part of the onboarding process. When a new hire starts their career, a member of upper-management is assigned to them to help provide leadership and guidance not only as a mentor, but as a corporate ambassador. Wouldn’t it be great to have a professional relationship with someone who’s “been there, done that”?
I have been very fortunate to have had many different mentors in my professional career. Some are in my line of business (now HR and Recruiting, but formerly Broadcasting) and some are outside my realm of general knowledge. No doubt, the advice and guidance that I have received from leaders (including my peers and competitors) has proved beneficial in the advancement of my professional career and personal growth.
“Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.” – Jim Rohn
This quote holds true in just about everything, including mentorship. While you’re at the receiving end of advice, guidance and experience, remember that your mentor is also gaining experience from you. Whether it’s a fresh, creative perspective on something, or new technology, in any good relationship, you’re giving just as much as you’re receiving. A friend put it best when she said “I don’t know that I would be where I am today without my mentor. I’ve grown professionally, personally, and spiritually. Everyone needs that special person!”
So, go ahead. Find your mentor. Ask questions. Learn from them. Add value. When you make that connection, it’s something that will stick with you throughout your development both professionally and personally.
Please feel free to add your comments below – I would certainly value your input.