I think I was 12 years old when I got my first mentoring gig.
My English teacher asked me to help some pupils who were struggling with reading by spending my lunchtimes listening to them and encouraging them with their vocabulary and understanding.
I was happy to help and enjoyed the experience.
At university, I was often a ‘buddy’ for first-year students who wanted someone slightly older and more familiar with how things worked to show them the ropes.
Once I got into full-time employment I spent many years mentoring others and benefiting from having a mentor. I went to schools and colleges to help students prepare for interviews or prepare their CVs. I have mentored junior employees as they got to grips with their first roles as supervisors or managers, and I have helped others navigate their career paths and progression.
Mentoring is the perfect way to give back
I love mentoring because it allows me to use a wide range of knowledge, skills, and, most importantly, lived experiences to guide, coach, advise, and counsel my mentees.
To me, that is the joy of mentoring. It is about sharing your experience as well as your advice. When you are new to a corporate role or new to running a business, there is nothing better than hearing first-hand from someone who has grappled with the issues you are facing and has found a solution that works and could work for you.
Having spent thirty years plus in corporate communications, I am well-versed in all aspects of change management, crisis communications, employee engagement, customer and media relations, and reputation management. Why then would I not want to share that wealth of experience with others if it can help them overcome a stumbling block and find clarity?
Mentoring is also a two-way street
Part of the joy of mentoring is seeing the person or group of people you are working with flourish. In the corporate world, much of the mentoring I performed was designed to help the employee achieve promotion. Nowadays, when I work with business owners, it is to help them build their communication skills, develop their confidence, and boost their business’s profitability.
But mentoring isn’t just about giving of yourself to someone else. I have always found it equally beneficial. As you talk and share experiences, opinions, and ideas, I am just as likely to learn something from my mentee as they are from me. It can be a very powerful and enlightening relationship.
Finding the right partnership
Before choosing a mentor or deciding to offer your services to someone as a mentor, it is important to have a clear vision of what both parties want from the relationship. If you don’t have that, the sessions can become unproductive and unsatisfactory.
It also helps if you share the same values. You don’t have to agree on everything or have the same type of personality, but it helps if you have the same moral compass. The relationship also works better when you enjoy spending time together. Mentoring is usually a long-term commitment so it wants to be pleasurable. If you don’t click with your mentee, it is better to be honest and suggest they find someone else.
You will know when it is right. The sessions you have together are a joy. You build a strong working relationship and develop an ally, confidante, and more often than not a friendship.