Enhancing your own professional development is certainly time and effort well-invested. You are most likely seeing your devotion to your career development paying off in one, if not many, ways. Working on your next career steps can be very rewarding and exciting, but I find there is one specific area of career development that professionals often skip or ignore, even though it is vital to your growth as an empathetic leader.
This area is mentoring.
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor
When You Give, You Get
Mentoring has many benefits that go beyond the relationship with your mentee. Of course, your mentee will gain valuable insights and reach their goals faster with the help of a seasoned professional. In fact, 79% of millennials believe “mentorship programs are crucial to their career success. Studies show that nearly 80 percent of all learning is considered to be informal, which means that your mentee will have a greater chance of learning about his/her role, professional conduct, and job-related skills through conversations and emails with you, as opposed to formal training. As a mentor, you will play a big role in the future success of a junior professional.
But you will also flourish.
Your skills of critical listening, giving incisive feedback, developing empathy and relating to others will all become honed while working with your mentee. While you “show them the ropes,” you can get practice in becoming a sounding board, problem-solving, and character management.
Your Company Will Benefit Too
Your relationship with a mentee can create goodwill among the ranks of the organization. It can foster an understanding of roles among and within departments. It can also create a general atmosphere of helping and assisting each other, as a community, to set and reach goals on an individual and company-wide level.
Additionally, mentoring is reported to increase retention rates; 47% of actively disengaged millennials stated they would switch jobs to find a better “culture,” and mentorship factors into that culture. Think about it: many people leave a job because of frustration with (link to this past post):
- Job Requirements
- Lack of rewarding work
- Conflicting personal/professional values
- Organizational culture/manager
- Lack of adequate salary
Many of these frustrations become perceived dead-ends so the employee leaves. With the help and guidance of a mentor, most of these problems can be worked out, allowing the situation to get better and increasing the chances that the employee will happily stay on board.
The First Step of Mentorship
Once you have determined your strengths (link to post) and leadership style (link to post), you are ready to be a highly effective mentor. Knowing who you are and what talents you bring to the relationship means your mentee is going to have more time for insights and acceleration moments, rather than power struggles and miscommunication. Use the time with your mentee to practice your leadership skills and you will both benefit from the relationship.
Some companies have formal mentoring programs that are excellent at matching the right individuals and encouraging a mutually beneficial relationship.
Most companies, however, do not have formal programs. In these instances, you need to tap into your natural talents and take on the posture of a mentor.
Becoming a mentor does not necessarily mean fostering a relationship that has been instigated and blessed by HR. Being a mentor means you have a way of looking at the world that will allow you to help many people you come in contact with (junior staff or otherwise) over the course of your career.
I had a few mentors with whom there was no formal agreement. In fact, there is one, in particular, that would be surprised to hear that I consider him my professional mentor.
The key is to be an excellent sounding board to help your mentee make smart, well-thought-out decisions. Base your relationship on respect; you respect the goals and aspirations of your mentee and they respect your input and experience as a seasoned professional. This basis of respect will allow you to have a special, mutually beneficial relationship that in many cases, lasts for decades.
Learn From The Best
Some people are natural mentors. Learn from them to build on your leadership skills. One important thing to note is that natural mentors are giving. They know they have to give in order to receive, and they give generously. It’s not forced. It’s simply who they are. This giving nature is easy for them, and if it is not your style, don’t worry, you can cultivate it.
Here are 10 Habits of Remarkably Giving People from Inc.com you can follow to become an instinctually giving person:
- They give the gift of praise, because everyone needs it.
- They give the gift of requesting help when they know they need it.
- They give the gift of patience.
- They give the gift of privacy, because they care about your feelings.
- They give the gift of opportunity and believe in your potential.
- They give the gift of sincerity, being openly empathetic.
- They give the gift of tough love, telling you what you need to hear.
- They give the gift of respect, regardless of your stature.
- They give the gift of freedom, allowing all choices to be good choices.
- They give the gift of purpose, creating a space for everyone.
Natural mentors take the time to listen to questions thoughtfully and give answers that will help the mentee grow. They enjoy having people come to them so they can give more. They easily share their ideas.
They understanding that by giving their time, insight, advice and opinion, they will help accomplish great things along with their peers.
Mentors share their feedback and ideas with honesty and fairness. This, along with mutual respect is the foundation of a great mentee-mentor relationship.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” — Benjamin Disraeli
When the Going Gets Tough
Good mentors don’t shy away from tough situations. Instead, they understand that those tough situations are great teachers. They are fair in pointing out shortcomings and quick to help remedy the problem. They trust that their mentee is ready to receive the kind of feedback that solves problems.
If one of my personal mentors thought I was going to go down the wrong path, they would let me know. Not because they like pointing out flaws, but because they wanted me to be successful.
Is Your Mentee Ready?
Some professionals are not ready to be mentored. You have to also acknowledge when a person isn’t in the right place to accept feedback and advice. There may be an internal struggle going on that is so loud, they are not able to listen to anyone else. That situation is probably not permanent, so keep your open, honest mentoring posture and keep looking for the right mentee.
Mentoring can happen at any age, and it doesn’t have to be direct. There are many people looking for expertise like yours to help them get to the next level. What step will you take next to find and help them achieve their goals?
Julia Holian & Associates provides strategy and coaching for career-focused professionals looking to have the career they always wanted. The San Francisco Bay Area-based company was founded in 2016 by Julia Holian, a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach with more than 20 years of experience in professional development. Julia Holian & Associates guides clients in any industry with job search strategy and career transition, resume and LinkedIn development, interview preparation, and professional strengths coaching. For more information, please visit: www.JuliaHolian.com.
Julia Holian is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. She helps experienced professionals pinpoint what that want to do with their career, then showcase their talents in order to move up in their chosen field or re-enter the job market. Julia leverages her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients navigate the nuances of asking for new projects or a promotion, networking, interviewing, creating a job search plan, negotiating compensation, and successfully assimilating into a new role. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian(@JuliaHolian), and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.