Mentoring is a relationship that is as old as time itself. A more experienced professional showing a mentee how to handle new situations, rise to challenges and advance in their field.
But for all of its incredible benefits, we rarely stop to consider just how powerful a good mentoring relationship can be.
Below, we discuss three important reasons why mentorship a winning proposition for any professional – whether you’re a mentor offering help, or a mentee looking for guidance in your industry.
Mentorship is about discomfort
When we think of mentorship, we feel good. We think about someone who has our interests at heart, who can point us in the right direction, who we can trust to help us get to the next level.
But the truth is that mentorship isn’t always about feeling comfortable. In fact, the nature of growth is that it is often unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unknown.
So let’s take that idea and flip it 180 degrees. What if a good mentor is actually about motivating us to step into uncomfortable situations? What if a mentor gives us the insight and confidence, we need to challenge our boundaries?
It’s only through having another person, who has walked the path before us, that we are able to take risks – to take on new projects, to work with new clients, to take on greater responsibility.
Good mentoring isn’t about staying put in your comfort zone. It’s about providing a much-needed second perspective on your ability and trajectory – a voice that can help you take the hard first step into your next challenge.
Mentoring builds your perspective
It’s no surprise that mentorship is encouraged in many technical professions like law, consulting, medicine, engineering and more. These are jobs that demand a lot of energy, focus and learning – and that’s just when you start out!
When you’re operating at this level every day at work, it’s all too easy to get caught up in your own little world, whether you’re new to an industry or more experienced. If you don’t get outside of your head, you can quickly settle into rhythms and routines.
While it’s good to understand your job and dedicate yourself to it, this kind of repetition and stress can quickly make even the most passionate person feel less motivated and lonely. If all you know is the work you do, the challenges you face and the wins you celebrate, it can become less of a team effort connected to a greater purpose – and more of a solo effort.
By mentoring or being mentored by someone at a different level in their career to you, the mentoring relationship offers a valuable opportunity to get out of your own routine. You are forced to think about your industry from someone else’s perspective. Different problems, issues and opportunities will present themselves. And because they’re not – strictly speaking – your own, you can approach them with more creativity and honesty than if they were part of your own job.
In short, by getting to help someone else face their own challenges, you gain deep experience and perspective for your own challenges. And this makes you a better practitioner of your own specialty.
Mentoring builds your support network
If you put in the effort and time to assist your mentor/mentee and develop a productive relationship, you will have won another friend and colleague in the industry.
But mentoring has a bigger impact than just the other person in your mentoring relationship – it also opens the door to meet that person’s colleagues, friends and role models. Indeed, the famous ‘6 degrees of separation’ rule, which argues that everyone on earth is six or fewer social connections away from each other really applies to mentoring.
While you may not know someone, your mentor may know someone who does. And this kind of connection can prove infinitely more natural and approachable than a cold-call. What this means is that your support network expands significantly, even through a single mentor.
Mentoring is not just about sitting down and ticking off professional steps. It represents a far more valuable and important human relationship – one that helps us step into the uncomfortable unknown, which helps us get perspective on our own careers, and which builds a support network far greater than one person can provide.
The only thing left now is for you to forge a mentoring relationship with the right person. It might be formalised at your workplace, or it might not be in which case you could research prominent individuals in your industry and put together a tailored approach to ask them to be your mentor.
Whatever you do, the main thing to remember is that mentoring is a reciprocal relationship: only expect to get out of it what you put in.