Are you a mentor or a mentee? In a recent SHARE presentation, Rosalind Radcliffe and Frank De Gilio, both IBM Distinguished Engineers, explained that mainframers — regardless of their experience level — should seriously consider being both.
If you’re wondering whether you really need a mentor, the answer is yes. Everyone can benefit from a mentoring relationship, whether you need help navigating your current job, or need to spend more time thinking about your career.
If you’re wondering whether you should be a mentor, the answer is also yes. That’s true whether you’re a 30-year veteran, a new hire, or somewhere in between. No matter who you are or what stage of your career you’re in, everyone has a unique perspective to offer.
Why Become a Mentor or Mentee?
Entering into a mentor-mentee relationship brings a number of benefits, both to you and to your organization.
Mentoring relationships help increase employee engagement and build camaraderie, and in turn, drive better performance. “When people are mentored, they move up faster, they get paid better and they provide more value to the organization,” Radcliffe and DeGilio said.
It’s not just about job performance, though. Successful companies have loyal employees. The problem is that people aren’t naturally inclined to be loyal to a company – they want to be loyal to other people, Radcliffe and DeGilio added. Mentoring starts to build that sense of loyalty, through close, personal relationships and the knowledge that someone is looking to further your professional development.
Radcliffe and DeGilio also agree that mentoring someone can increase your own job satisfaction. Simply seeing the job through someone else’s eyes can remind you of the exciting elements you don’t necessarily notice anymore. Plus, the simple act of sharing and talking about your work can help relieve job stress and offer useful perspective.
Getting rid of some stress at work probably sounds good in the abstract, but how do you actually mentor someone? One of your primary responsibilities as a mentor is to teach — anything from technical tools to insight into your office culture. Here are some actionable ways you can guide your mentee and make a difference in their life and career:
- Help them work on their career: Some have more work to do than time allows, and as a result, it can be hard to make time to focus on a career. But, if you don’t set your sights somewhere, you’re never going to get there. Carve out time for your mentees to think about what they really want to do in the long term.
- Identify goals: Once your mentees know what they want out of their career, identify the steps needed to get them there. Verbalize, write down, and track progress on these goals. Even the act of meeting once a month may be the push needed for mentees to move forward on their goals. Deadlines help.
- Build your mentees’ network: Help your mentees grow their network, both within and outside of your company. They’ll learn so much by talking to different kinds of people. This one goes both ways, too, because you can also tap your mentees’ networks for new connections.
- Challenge them to take reasonable risks: Give your mentees the opportunity to grow. Give them the space to make mistakes or to fail fast. Never set them up for failure, but help them find opportunities to stretch their abilities.
- Give them responsibility: To that end, give your mentees the opportunity to do something that may be a bit of a stretch for them. If they succeed, it gives them more confidence and visibility within the company.
- Allow mentees to shadow you: Spending some time walking in your shoes is one of the best ways for mentees to figure out what they really want to do.
While there is so much good that can come out of mentoring relationships, mentorships that go sour tend to fall into one of these traps:
- Blame: Make sure you’re helping people become the best version of themselves, not a clone of you. Don’t expect them to be perfect or do things exactly the way you would.
- Coddling: Don’t take responsibility for your mentee’s mistakes. If they never fail, they never learn, and as a mentor, one of the most important things you can do is give them the opportunity to learn.
If you’d like to become a mentor or mentee, and your company doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, suggest one. Or look to external organizations, such as SHARE, that have networking opportunity events that can lead to informal mentoring. Always remember, your perspective is unique and there’s someone out there who will benefit from your experience.
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