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While, truly, helping other people has never gone out of style, one of the biggest trends in the workspace currently is mentoring. As professionals become executives and maintain leadership positions, it becomes continuously important to help younger generations of workers grow their careers.
Not only is mentoring a positive experience for eager newbies who possess unbridled drive and passion, but it can be beneficial to the growth of your own skills. Age may be a differentiator between you and your mentee, but building a repertoire and trust between one another creates a mutually-beneficial dynamic.
“I firmly believe what goes around comes around and when you open up to support someone else’s growth, something open ups for you as well,” explains business coach Christine Agro. “Professionally, it is really good for your boss to see you taking a leadership role.
“So whether that’s within your company and it’s apparent to your boss, or you are mentoring externally be sure to include it on your evaluation.”
There’s never a wrong or right time to become a mentor—but January might be a great starting point since many people are in the mindset to make moves. Ad chief learning officer at MentorcliQ Paul MacCartney explains, unlike most New Year’s resolutions that eventually fall to the wayside, an active mentorship relationship will continue to bring benefits to both parties for months — if not years — to come.
“New Year’s commitments that are made together are much more likely to endure,” he adds.
If you want to pay it forward, consider these best practices for getting involved in 2019:
Decide your ‘why’ and make the time
To give to other people, everyone has to be driven by some intrinsic force. Whether you didn’t have anyone to influence you as a teenager or you had a wonderful mentor you’re still friends with today, Agro recommends professionals define their “why.” This will help guide what type of program you enlist in, and set your goals on how to contribute in someone’s life.
When you understand what is pushing you, it’s then important to figure out how much time you can allocate to the cause, so you can set a reasonable expectation to maintain.
“Our time is finite, so having clarity about these elements will help you to make choices upfront that best suit your lifestyle rather than getting into something and discovering it doesn’t really work for you,” she explains.
Evaluate yourself — and practice
Before you can effectively guide a budding high school, college or entry-level kid, you should be well-versed and confident in what you can provide them. As the CEO and founder of Sky High for Kids, Brittany Herbert explains the best kind of mentors can evaluate themselves critically. “What do you have to offer someone? How can your experiences and lessons help guide someone in similar roles or industries? It is important to take a step back and be honest with yourself during this time to ensure you are bringing the best version of yourself to the table,” she explains.
This makes identifying and leveraging teaching moments once you start mentoring that much more seamless. Mentees won’t always be forthright about what they need assistance with, making it the role of a mentor to step up when they see an opportunity.
“Being able to recognize people’s needs, areas of growth and abilities to learn is helpful as your surrounded by the next generation. It is our duty to help lift up young adults and share our knowledge to help bring them success,” she shares.
Inquire within your company
Before you start researching outside organizations, MacCartney recommends taking a peek into your own human resources department. In fact, he says you’d be surprised how many businesses have mentoring programs set up that aren’t widely advertised. And if it doesn’t exist — make a case for why one should be instituted.
“After a little research, companies see how beneficial these programs are. Once companies do the math, they realize the benefits from employee engagement, succession planning, and lowering turnover rates far outweigh the cost,” he explains.
If it is a no-go with your employer, research some of the most widely known and trusted programs out there from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to The National Mentoring Program and others. Your local community might have a set-up, too.
You’ve prepared yourself, you’re super excited, you’ve signed up and now you just left your first meeting with a could-be mentee … and you’re disappointed. MacCartney says this is normal, since hey, becoming a mentor is easy, but actually making a difference takes time.
“There are billions of candidates to be mentored. Anyone who says they don’t need a mentor needs one in the worst way. No one is perfect, and everyone can use some advice, reflection, and encouragement from time to time,” he explains. “The hard part of becoming a mentor is finding someone who is willing to stop, listen and actually implement the lessons you hand down.
“Unfortunately, you will find if you have not many professionals been much more talk than action. Or perhaps they know better than to need you as a mentor.”
Much like dating or finding the right job, you might hit many dead-ends before you find the right match, but stick it out. It’s worth the process to help someone make their dreams come true, just like you did.