It is often said that when people volunteer their time to help others, they get more out of it than the people they help. This is because the intrinsic rewards are so great that they vastly overshadow any sacrifices one makes in terms of time committed. The same, then, can also be said of mentoring other professionals. So what does it mean to mentor and what benefits are derived from being a mentor?
Roles of a Mentor
There are two primary roles of the career-related mentor. The first involves preparing protégés for advancement in their careers and helping them to learn to navigate the organizational structure where they work. These typically involve providing the protégé with exposure to other professionals with whom they can also network.
The second role is perhaps the most important, because it involves helping the protégé with personal growth. Such growth instills confidence and a sense of competence. This occurs through acceptance and affirmation of the protégé, counseling on both personal and professional issues that arise, role modeling for the protégé, and, of course, friendship. These two roles impact the protégé by exposing them to new ideas and ways of thinking, development of strengths and the overcoming of weaknesses, and increased recognition in their careers.
Benefits of Mentorship
Not only do mentors gain personal satisfaction from sharing their knowledge and experience with an eager listener, mentoring also offers more tangible professional benefits. For one, the mentor benefits through the recognition that they are a subject matter expert. This can have career impacts well beyond the walls of one’s organization. What’s more, the mentor also learns from the protégé through exposure to a different perspective. Additionally, the mentor is able to develop a personal development style that can have benefits for those in senior and management positions.
Less tangible, but no less important, benefits include honing active listening skills, an increased sense of self-worth, and the opportunity to reflect on their own goals and opinions.
So, what does it mean to mentor? As you can tell from the above, it means an awful lot. And, quite often, the mentor-protégé relationship extends well past its formal expiration as mentor and protégé have laid the foundation for a lifelong connection. I’ve mentioned before that it can often be lonely at the top. Being a mentor not only provides the opportunity for personal fulfillment and satisfaction, but it can also be part of an effective strategy for overcoming what can often feel like isolation as we focus on continuing to develop ourselves and others.