In Greek mythology, Mentor was a trusted friend and adviser to Odysseus. When Odysseus left Ithaca to fight in the Trojan War, Mentor helped Penelope, wife of Odysseus, raise their son Telemachus. He became a protector, teacher, counselor and trusted friend to Telemachus as the youth grew into manhood. In Homer’s Odyssey the goddess Athena, disguised as Mentor, protects Telemachus as he sails the Mediterranean Sea in search of his father.
Perhaps you have reached a level of professional success where you feel ready to “give back”, to take someone less experienced under your wing, show that person the ropes and set him/her on the road to great achievement.
Or perhaps you feel yourself stagnating professionally, spinning your wheels and blocked from entering the winner’s circle. You long for a rewarding project to sink your teeth into, to demonstrate your relevance to colleagues and decision makers and remind yourself that you are still valuable and deserving of success.
Choosing to become a mentor may be the best response to both scenarios. The process of mentoring provides many benefits, tangible and intangible, for both mentor and protegé.
The less experienced and often (but not always) younger protegé will learn to hone his/her business acumen, receive introductions to those who can help further his/her goals and finesse the unwritten rules on which success so often hinges.
The mentor will likewise benefit handsomely. Strengthened leadership skills, such as the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on one’s leadership style or learning to relate to, collaborate with and/or manage colleagues and workers from backgrounds other than one’s own, are among the more practical benefits that accrue to a mentor.
Mentoring can help you bridge the generation gap, become more attuned to gender differences as they relate to expectations or perspective and break down barriers between you and those of other ethnicities and religions. As our nation’s workforce becomes more diverse, these competencies can only grow in value.
Moreover, your protegé will no doubt have a few skills to teach you and may be able to introduce you to a few of the right people as well. You’ll gain an ally, expand your professional network and influence, enhance your reputation and leave a lasting and positive legacy. You’ll experience the deep satisfaction that comes from seeing those whom you’ve mentored succeed, perhaps beyond what they dared to dream. Formerly dismissive decision makers may come to view you in a new, more favorable, light.
So share your wisdom and experience and help someone who needs support and guidance to achieve their goals. Challenge your protegé to think in new ways, consider options previously unknown, open up to new perspectives, gain new insights and develop judgment and confidence.
When you notice someone who is bright, talented and motivated, yet seems to need some wise counsel, get to know that individual. See if the two of you click, if the communication between you flows. Asses how that person responds to and processes advice.
Be advised, however, that a potential protegé could reject that role, or prefer to not go there with you. Respect boundaries and if the mutual agreement is there, gradually ease into a mentoring role. Both you and your protegé will receive many benefits and it will be a feather in your cap.
Thanks for reading,