Are you struggling to make sense of your career? Unsure how to progress at work? Needing professional guidance?
Are you in a career rut? Getting too comfortable in your position? Looking for new challenges, and to help the next generation?
The answer to all these questions might lie in a single word: mentorship.
What Is Mentorship?
Mentorship describes an educational or professional relationship between two people where one typically passes on knowledge, experience, and advice to another. The mentor is the senior individual, and the mentee is the junior.
While it is typically associated with careers and professional development, a mentorship can also exist in sports, education, or other high-performance environments. For the purposes of this article, we will consider mentorship in the context of business and entrepreneurship.
What Are the Benefits for the Mentee?
The benefits of mentorship are countless. For the mentee, they include:
- Receiving valuable advice. Most obviously, a person more senior than you will have insights and knowledge to impart and share with you.
- Having a safe space to ask questions. A mentor is a good person to ask the questions you’ve not been able to so far.
- Setting realistic goals and ambitions. Goal setting is important in starting a career or a new job. However, it’s easy to aim too high, which can lead to demoralisation when you don’t reach those goals. A mentor can help you find out what is achievable in certain timeframes and set the right goals for you.
- Getting a fresh perspective. Speaking to a mentor with a different background or path can show you alternative ways of getting to a certain position.
- Problem solving. If you’re having a problem in your career or starting your business, chances are your mentor will have had the same one. Having an experienced person to speak to is a simple way of finding solutions to problems you’ve not considered.
- Motivation and accountability. Having someone to report your progress to, especially someone more senior whom you respect and trust, can be very motivating.
Reverse Mentoring: Learning as a Mentor
Contrary to popular belief, mentors can also get a huge amount out of the mentoring relationship.
In fact, the term “reverse mentoring” refers to programmes where younger individuals are brought in to teach executive teams and leaders. This is used to teach older staff about new technologies or cultural phenomena; to ensure companies are in touch with younger generations. Law firm Allen & Overy is one major corporation to have implemented such a scheme, where young employees spoke to senior executives about issues such as diversity and inclusion.
Apart from reverse mentoring, mentors can gain a lot from volunteering to take a young professional under their wing:
- Giving back. Mentoring someone is a great way of doing good through your career. Many mentoring schemes can link you specifically to someone who might not have access to resources or a large network, so your help will be even more valuable. For example, ReachOut is a U.K. charity that matches young people from a disadvantaged background with volunteer mentors.
- Developing leadership and management skills. While mentorship is not a synonym of management, many of the skills needed for one apply to the other. For example, mentoring someone can help you hone your listening, empathy, and counselling skills – all of which are relevant for leaders and managers.
- Learning! In a mentorship, the mentee doesn’t do all the learning. Mentors can learn about new technologies, resources, and trends in the industry.
- Getting a fresh perspective. Just as a mentee can learn from a different background to themselves, a mentor can find out alternative ways to reach a certain position and solve problems.
How to Find a Mentor or Mentee
If you’ve established you would benefit from entering a mentorship, you might now wonder how to find such an opportunity. Below are a few suggestions:
- Internal schemes. If you work at an established organisation, chances are your company has an internal mentorship scheme. Email an HR representative to find out if that is the case and sign up.
- Emailing a superior. If you’re looking for a mentor and your organisation doesn’t have such a scheme in place, you could still go through the internal route. Get in touch with a superior and outline your idea. Don’t be put off if the answer is negative – mentorship takes time, and they might not have the capacity for it.
- Reach out on LinkedIn. The professional network is a great place for finding mentorship opportunities. If you’re looking to mentor someone, put out a call to your network: you are bound to get positive responses from hopefuls wanting to enter your industry. If you’re looking for a mentor, keep an eye out for some individuals in your field who might have capacity for this.
- Mentorship programmes. Companies like Together specialise in setting up professional mentoring schemes inside organisations. If you think this could benefit your company, talk to an HR representative.
How to Establish a Successful Mentorship
Once you’ve found a mentor or mentee, you might think the hard work is done. However, there’s a lot to keep in mind to create a successful working relationship.
- Set goals. Determine what you want to from the relationship, express that, and set goals in conjunction with your mentor or mentee.
- Clarify expectations. The mentorship can’t work if you’re expecting different results. This is especially important for the mentor: mentees often believe being mentored will mean receiving answers to everything and immediately getting clarity. Communicate and manage expectations regularly.
- Set boundaries. A mentorship is a professional relationship but is often personal too. As such, it’s important to set boundaries such as establishing channels of communication, hours when each party can be contacted, and the topics that can be discussed.
- Be open-minded. Matching with a mentor or mentee can mean speaking to someone who has a different background, views, opinions, or ideals to you. While this can seem daunting, you will learn more as a result.
- Build trust. A mentorship can only work if both parties are entirely comfortable and respectful. Avoid any topics that make either of you uncomfortable, meet in places where you both feel good, and have fun!
Here at EWOR, we want to make sure every entrepreneur with a ground-breaking idea has the support network and resources they need. Our Academy surrounds you with bright peers and teachers with extensive experience of the business world, here to advise and help you on your journey.