Businesses are made up of people — mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, athletes, artists, entrepreneurs and everything in between — who have their own goals, ambitions, beliefs, and values that drive their behaviours and attitudes both at home and at work. Successful business leaders recognize the value of prioritizing initiatives that focus on both personal and professional development. It makes employees more motivated to succeed and grow, which improves productivity, thus benefiting the business.
The bottom line is, meeting your goals and ambitions isn’t just about you. People require relationships and support to make it through life. This is why mentors and leadership support are essential in both personal and professional development at every stage of your life.
Myth: Mentors are Just for new Grads
There is a common misconception that mentors are something that are restricted to students, new grads or junior employees nervously navigating the new working world or deciding a career path. While they are a key demographic that benefits from mentors, learning new skills and challenging oneself is something that needs to be continuous throughout your career, no matter how old you are, how long you have been in your current role or how much expertise you may have. Nobody is ever too old, too experienced, or too good to learn something new from someone else.
You may want to seek out a mentor for many different reasons including starting out in your career, changing career paths, wanting to learn new skills, wanting to progress in your current role or any number of other reasons. However, it is not just a one-and-done process. Careers are evolutionary, where goals may (and probably will) change as your grow in your role and career. It is important to continuously find mentors who challenge and coach you as you progress through your career.
Here are some reasons that mentorship is essential at every stage of your life:
1. Exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking
You can always learn something new from a different perspective in life, whether this is around work or personal life. Exposure to multiple coaching and leadership styles will give you the ability to adapt to multiple communication styles and will make you more resilient as you progress through your career.
2. Create a culture of Inclusion
Having a mentor by your side in your organization, whether it is in your department or not, makes you feel more included in the company. You may be paired with someone who you might not naturally gravitate towards, but it could break down silos and create a culture of symbiotic corporate learning.
3. Mentoring is the fastest way to learn
Compared to traditional training courses, the knowledge transfer of mentorship has been proven to be a lot more successful, where you retain what you learn faster and more effectively.
4. Increase employee engagement
Becoming a mentor can make senior employees re-engaged and energized in their role and getting a mentor can make junior employees more focused on their career goals.
Key Considerations and Types of Mentors
Before entering into a mentor relationship, you should first establish the purpose of this relationship and what each of you hope to gain from it. From there, you should establish a time limit. Putting an expiry date on the relationship gives both of you the opportunity at the end to renew with an evolved set of goals and timeframe or go your separate ways with no hard feelings. 6 months to a year is usually a good time frame to get the most benefit while not learning to rely entirely on the views of one person. The only way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone and working with new people will add fresh perspectives to your life and career.
Mentorship can come in many shapes and sizes and the type you may want, or need, could change depending on your current goals, experience and projected next steps. There are professional and personal mentors as well as a reverse mentorship. Read below to see which type of mentorship might be right for you in your current stage.
This is what most people think of when they think of a mentor. A professional mentor is typically someone in your company, or someone external who is in your field who may have a career trajectory that is desirable to you. They can offer guidance and support on career path, professional skill development or advancement or how to develop strengths and overcome weaknesses. They often understand the complexities of the field you are in and can help you work through problems, bounce ideas around, or be there for moral support. They are a trusted person who is in your corner and rooting for your career development.
A personal mentor may not be in your company, or even in your field, but can offer a third party fresh perspective on your professional and personal development, or even a specific challenge you are facing. There is so much we can learn from people who are different than we are because they open our eyes to perspectives that we didn’t previously think were imaginable but are extremely valuable in considering. They may be a friend or acquaintance but should be able to provide objective opinions and constrictive advice to a situation you need consulting on.
These people are generally less career specific, but are just as important in your professional success. They can help develop “soft skills” such as leadership, presentation skills, listening effectively or practicing empathy in the workplace.
The common misconception is that a mentor has to be someone who is older than you or in a more senior role. However, there is equal benefit in reverse mentorship, where younger, more junior, employees mentor older employees:
- Closing the knowledge gap: New technologies are ever changing, and older generations tend to have more difficulty adapting to learning how to interact with new technology effectively. Younger generations can help close this gap because they have likely grown up with that technology. Junior employees are also fresher out of school where they likely learned the latest skills and trends in the industry, which they can share with their executives. This can help the company maintain competitive advantage by staying informed and equipped for technological changes.
- Closing the generation gap: putting senior and junior employees at a similar level could cause junior employees to be less intimidated and foster inter-generational and inter-departmental relationships which creates a more collaborative culture by breaking down those barriers. Being aligned at the same level can eliminate an “us vs. them” mentality between junior staff and executives.
- A mentor relationship that is 1:1 creates a safe space for both parties to have open communication to bring up solutions that could make a difference in the organization that might not be brought up in a larger meeting.
- It empowers younger generations to become leaders and fosters a culture of growth across all levels of seniority. It provides exposure to the senior member’s roles and responsibilities, for future roles down the road.
A reverse mentorship is not as traditional and could come with some resistance. It is essential that both parties have a desire to learn from each other and that they establish trust, transparency, clear expectations and an agreed upon communication style.
Whether you are just starting out in your career or are many years in, seeking out a mentor at every stage of your life will give you the growth opportunities you would have never thought imaginable. You may utilize one or more of the above mentor styles at once or may switch between the three as your goals and experience change.
Many organizations have a formal mentorship program for employees as part of an onboarding process that is run by HR or a group of volunteers. Ask a resource in your company how to get involved!
Does your company not have something like this in place? Pitch it as a professional development project to your leadership, highlighting the many benefits that follow! Or, join a professional organization with a focus in your field, volunteer in your community, or reach out to a colleague and ask if they would be willing to mentor you. Think about what qualities in a mentor could help you with your success and seek out someone who fits the profile.
Taking inventory of your skills, recognizing gaps in your professional development and asking for what you need to be successful shows initiative and accountability to your own success. You are the only person in charge of your career development, and how much you grow and how quickly is only limited by the effort you want to put in.
No matter how old you are or where you are on your corporate hierarchy, you need someone in your corner to go to for support and to push you to grow. Get started on your professional growth today!
At The Poirier Group, our team is committed to living our values of continuous learning and achieving excellence. Many of our employees, both junior and senior, actively seek out mentors, and become mentors to individuals inside and outside of the company. From interns to the CEO, we believe that there is always something valuable to learn from those around us.