Whether you’re at the earlier or more advanced stages of your career, it’s never too late to learn or be taught new things. Good mentoring happens when both parties get something positive out of the process. The mentee will have learned some great and useful things and the mentor has gained some excellent experience in leadership and teaching. And hopefully a brilliant professional friendship has formed as a result – which in the long term is invaluable.
A worthy mentor is someone who has priceless experience and knowledge worth passing on. A good mentee has an eagerness and willingness to learn and be taught. This person ideally should be curious and inquisitive. After all, the best people to teach are the people who want to gain as much knowledge as possible.
If you like the idea of mentoring (or being mentored), the first place to check this out is through your workplace. Does your company offer schemes through experienced employees as part of their in-house training programme? If your manager doesn’t know, check with HR and see what they have to offer.
Mentoring doesn’t need to be formal. A lot of us learn best when we’re relaxed and comfortable. If the relationship is forced and somewhat sterile then you, as a mentee, won’t feel at ease asking questions and a mentor won’t be able to teach effectively.
Mentoring is all about the passing down of knowledge but it isn’t a one-way street. Once you’ve learned plenty and you can apply it well in your professional life, you should think about teaching others who are in the same position you once were. As Richard Branson says in his Virgin blog: “If you are determined and enthusiastic then people will support you”. His blog also makes the brilliant point that there isn’t a successful person out there who hasn’t had a good mentor along the way.
Mentoring also works as an important form of networking and CPD (continuing professional development). This is an enormously important aspect of a job which can be highly valuable. For starters, finding a suitable mentor can take a lot of networking in the first place to get right. You need to ask around – your co-workers, old university lecturers or classmates as well as your friends.
Another huge benefit from mentoring is that you may inadvertently come across some new job opportunities or training. Your mentor might see some essential qualities you have which could lead to a promotion at work or a different opportunity altogether! You never know which way the road will take with mentoring. You need to take advantage of absolutely everything, from the mentor’s extensive contacts list to be able to use them as a possible reference for a new job.
It’s important to remember that not all mentees are young folks just starting their career. Depending on what stage you are in your career, you can almost always benefit from being mentored. Trends in every industry are always changing, and if you’re good at your job, you know how to adapt to change. If you’re starting something new and you’re quite mature, mentoring can be a fantastically informal way of getting you up to speed with the industry and how you can do your job better.
So, if you haven’t considered mentoring up until this point and you’d rather go down the route of a more informal and fun way of learning how to do your job better, then explore the idea in more detail with your employer.