Despite being a young professional with a variety of much-needed mentors of my own, I find that becoming a mentor myself has been equally important to my personal and professional growth. I often find myself connecting with high school and college students on a more relatable level, because it wasn't so long ago that I was in their shoes, and it won't be long before they, too, become young professionals.
Many professionals see mentoring as a one-way street. The more experienced person takes the rookie under their wing, with the only reward perhaps being the satisfaction of watching their mentee grow. But I disagree. Mentoring offers many growth benefits outside of simply feeling good about helping others.
Lessons You Teach Are a Good Reminder for Yourself
I spend a lot of time building up the confidence in my mentees. From being encouraging and supportive, and not letting them lapse into negative self-talk, one of the most important skills I can give the students I mentor is the capacity to believe in and be kind to themselves. However, that same lesson is something I'm still working on within myself. So, whenever I remind mentees of their good qualities, I try to take a minute to remind myself too. To be kind to and confident in myself is the best way I can be a role model for others, and by taking on the responsibility of mentorship, I am reminding myself to strive for a higher standard.
The same is true of professional skills, just as it is for personal lessons. Many educational institutions abide by the theory of "See one, do one, teach one," for optimal learning practices. In my case, I have been taught certain skills, have worked to apply them, and now am getting the reinforcement of teaching others. Nothing can help you learn better than teaching a concept to someone else, because you have to know it inside and out in order to convey it to others.
Mentorship Forces You to Step Back and Gain Perspective
When a mentee comes to you with a question or a problem, it is unlikely that you can best offer advice without the benefit of more context. So you ask more questions and gain more clarity about the situation before answering. As an unbiased party, you have the distinct advantage of being able to see the whole picture, without getting caught in details or emotions that may hinder your mentee. Because of this, you can offer advice that is clear and sound.
This part of mentorship has challenged me to step back and gain perspective on my own situation. I am more aware of the non-problems and insecurities that hold me back, and I am better able to work with and trust my own mentors, knowing that they have a similarly clear vision of what my goals and situation look like. And I've also found that it's not such a bad idea to take my own advice once in awhile!
Mentees Can Teach You Something Too
As a mentor, you are in a great position to step back and see the bigger picture of your mentees' professional life. However, that does not make you all-knowing, better than, or smarter than your mentee. In fact, they absolutely can teach you a thing or two. One wonderful benefit of working with younger students or professionals is that they were more recently in school, and can help keep you current with the latest information, best practices, and new techniques in your industry. You simply have to drop the perceived hierarchy, keep an open mind, and be willing to let your mentoring session work both ways. Most mentees would be more than happy to share what they know with their mentor, especially since they have gleaned so much from you.
Mentorship Grows Leadership Capacity
When you mentor others, you gain critical skills to improve as a leader. You learn to bring out the best in others, recognize strengths and weaknesses, how to be diplomatic while getting results, how to give sound advice and be supportive, and most importantly, how to look within in order to make changes. As a mentor, you are both a leader and a role model for someone else, and that critical role often pushes you to strive for more, to be more helpful, and simply to be the best version of you. And if you can do that working with one person, you can do it with two or three, people, up to large groups and whole companies. The skills you may inadvertently learn are applicable in many life and professional situations, and the confidence you gain as a mentor is transferable to leadership in the workplace. The needs and goals are often the same.
While a mentoring relationship is first and foremost to benefit the mentee, the mentor has just as much to gain in experience, confidence, and knowledge. Mentoring can be equally as beneficial as it is fulfilling, as long as you take the time to reflect on your own life, and consider your own lessons as you take the journey into mentorship.