Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Accelerate your career growth through effective mentoring.
Why does mentoring matter? Because it works. A simple definition of a mentor is a trusted advisor or guide. He or she is someone who has knowledge and experience to intentionally pass on to someone with less knowledge and experience for the purpose of training and development. Every industry, organization and career path can benefit from the accelerating work of mentors. Whether the work is done in a formal or informal setting, individually or in groups, the results are consistent – skills and abilities are enhanced under the guidance of mentors.
Every industry, organization and career path can benefit from the accelerating work of mentors.
To put it simple, mentoring accelerates careers. Research on the topic validates my claim. In fact, a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology determined that people with mentors are more likely to get promotions. Other studies have shown that people who have mentors end up with higher compensation and feel more satisfied about their careers. This is not a coincidence. There is a direct correlation between growth produced by mentoring relationships and the advancement of careers and businesses. Whether you’re working in the corporate, government or non-profit sectors or you’re an entrepreneur or the leader of an organization, mentoring relationships have the potential to take your profession to the next level.
You’ve probably experience mentoring at some point in your career. Either you were the mentor or the mentee. Maybe the relationship was formalized through some sort of program, or it was more organic via some other form of interaction. Perhaps, your mentor was a neighbor, older sibling or a teacher. Or maybe it was someone at your place of worship or a senior person at a job. Regardless of how you connected to him or her, you have likely benefited from his or her perspective, tools, resources, and training.
My personal preference is one-to-one mentoring – both to give and receive. That may have a lot to do with me being an introvert and preferring small groups and intimate settings. Nevertheless, I prefer exclusive time with my mentors and when it comes to me serving on the other side of the mentoring dynamic, I prefer to mentor someone on a one-to-one basis. I enjoy the process of getting to know my mentee as a person. I don’t just want to understand their goals and skill gaps. I want to know what makes them happy and what drains their energy. This helps me provide better guidance when discussing the pros and cons of opportunities in the future.
I truly believe mentoring is an excellent way to harness someone’s skills, creativity, knowledge and experience to sharpen those attributes through deliberate rehearsal, conscious repetition, and timely feedback. A skilled mentor can help a mentee accomplish this at a pace that does not overwhelm the mentee and in a way that produces lasting results. This happens when the mentee converts the mentor’s guidance and training into conscious, deliberate practice. Here are a few reasons why I believe that mentoring works:
Mentoring levels the playing field. When mid-level and senior-level professionals take the time to groom someone with lesser knowledge and experience, the mentee gains the knowledge that “everyone else” has. It keeps the mentee from having to learn everything the hard way. In the mentoring relationship, the mentee is presented an opportunity to leverage the mentor’s knowledge, experience and network to reduce his or her learning curve. The mentor’s short cuts, best practices and secrets to success can be life changing for mentee.
Mentoring provides perspective. Mentors are sounding boards that provide clarity. The mentor has more knowledge and more experience than the mentee. This provides for exploratory dialogue that may expose the mentee to deeper and wider perspectives. There is often more than one way to view a situation. And there are often various dimensions of organizational culture, gender, ethnicity, internal politics, caveats and contingencies to consider – not to mention the people factor. It’s easy to get stuck in the loop of thoughts you have in your own head – contemplating your own thoughts and perspectives in isolated fragments and narrow insights. Mentors can help mentees navigate through the complexities of situations by providing perspective, ideas, cautions to consider. They can identify blind spots and areas for improvement.
Mentoring accelerates. It’s true! Mentoring helps the mentee grow, transform and accomplish more. In some cases, having a mentor can mean the difference between achievement and disaster. Mentors save time. A mentor can take ten months to train a mentee on a subject that it took the mentor ten years to learn! This saves the mentee nine years of learning the hard way. This is acceleration.
Mentoring cuts the cost of mistakes. Often, mistakes cost time, money or both. This could make or break the mentee’s career trajectory. Mentoring can help a mentee avoid costly mistakes because, typically, the mentor has been there and done that and has the battle scars to show for it. While the mentee may make new mistakes, the mentor can help the mentee avoid the cost of making the same mistakes he or she made. The mentee can learn from his or her mentor’s mistakes.
Mentoring promotes accountability. Mentors help their mentees stay focused. They pull their mentees back on track when life’s circumstances throw them off track. This is accountability – and sometimes, it’s the deciding factor in whether the mentee is successful in reaching his or her goals.
Mentoring produces effective habits. As opportunities get bigger, habits can make or break one’s ability to be successful. Because they have more experience, mentors can help mentees identify and implement effective habits that yield consistent desired results. They have the expertise to help the mentee perfect those practices.
Mentors provide support. There is nothing more energizing than having someone in your corner when the stakes are high. As the mentee embraces bigger opportunities, the mentor is there to encourage and energize the mentee.
Mentors make connections. Great mentors understand that their mentees don’t have the benefit of a strong network that takes time and effort to develop. They understand that to maximize their impact in their mentee’s lives, they must provide more than guidance – they must leverage their own personal networks on the mentee’s behalf. Mentors make introductions, invite mentees to exclusive events, provide exposure to new groups of people and help mentees connect the experience with the mentee’s goals.
I have been fortunate throughout my career to have people who came into my life for a reason, season or lifetime, to mentor me and provide all of the benefits listed above. At different stages in my life, my mentoring needs have changed. I’m happy to say that I am now enjoying a season in my life when I can give back and serve as mentor for others. The model works.
1Allen, T. D., Eby, L. T., Poteet, M. L., Lentz, E., & Lima, L. (2004). Career Benefits Associated With Mentoring for Proteges: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(1), 127-136.