by Kelly Tenner
Is the impulse to help others an innate human trait? It’s a question debated by sociologists and anthropologists, but there is no doubt that helping others through mentoring has been around as long as human relationships have existed.
Mentoring is most often defined as a formal relationship in which a person with skills, knowledge, or experience supports the personal or career development of a usually younger and less-experienced person. Mentees—those at the receiving end of mentoring—and mentors may be young or old, and range from entry-level workers to CEOs. Mentoring can be focused on developing a mentee for a particular career path, improving communication skills, or just helping them through difficult life transitions or decision making.
The mentor role is similar to a teacher who listens, encourages and inspires, while also providing guidance and insight.
Some benefits of being a mentor include:
- Mentoring promotes altruism—more than likely you’ll feel good just from being able to help others.
- When you share your skills, expertise, and experience with others, you both enhance your own understanding of your strengths, and you model knowledge sharing for others.
- Mentoring affirms you that you are always capable of learning more. Being a mentor promotes lifelong learning and opens your mind to new ideas and opportunities.
A mentee is similar to a student who is willing to learn and has the desire and ambition to improve themselves using the mentor as their guide.
Some benefits of being a mentee:
- You’ll get to be part of an important relationship, which can enhance your sense of community, help you network, and increase your job satisfaction.
- You can get help as you navigate a transitional period of your life—such as starting a new job or dealing with a job loss, facing a difficult life situation, or even needing help handling a family problem.
- You’ll learn new skills, get to practice your soft skills, and improve your communication skills with feedback.
How can you find a mentoring program to join?
Companies, academic organizations, and non-profit organizations have known about the benefits of mentoring for years. Many have established programs—some are open only to a targeted audience, while others are open to the public. Some examples include:
- Employer-based programs. Many employers have mentoring programs already in place to support their employees’ professional development. Corporations like Boeing and Caterpillar have well-established, effective programs for both career and leadership mentoring that can serve as models for organizations looking to start up a program. If you are employed, try contacting your human resources office to find out what types of programs they offer, or consider suggesting your employer start a mentoring program for employees.
- Academic mentoring. You can also be a part of an academic mentoring program. Large organizations like MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnerships, and the Corporation for National and Community Service support students in schools across the country at all grade levels. There are also many smaller local organizations that work with schools. Try searching “school-based mentoring in (your city)” in your browser to find local programs.
- Youth mentoring. Several national organizations focus on after-school mentoring programs, including: Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, the YMCA and YWCA and 4-H. These programs focus on educational development and building communities. Again, search your local area for available programs.
So, whether you are in school, looking for a job, 20 years into your career, or already retired. . . mentoring connects people who want to share their wisdom with those in need of receiving encouragement and support. It changes lives. Consider giving it a try!
And if you’ve been involved in a mentoring relationship, remember to thank your mentor on January 25, 2018 #ThankYourMentor Day.
Kelly Tenner is CareerOneStop’s outreach manager. She is an experienced career development professional specializing in the areas of marketing and outreach, including website and e-tool development and administration. Kelly is a life-long learner and most recently received her Doctorate in Business Administration.