While I cannot speak for everyone, I can explain why I spend several hours a month advising others, as I have since my resident advisor days in college. Understanding what motivates mentors will help you get the most out of your own mentor relationships. You might be inspired to become a mentor yourself!
Mentorship is satisfying
We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Fortunately, it is just as exciting to be the shoulders on which someone else stands. Through mentorship, we bring everyone closer to smashing the glass ceiling.
It takes the edge off our own struggles
We can all mentor at any stage in our careers, but it can be especially rewarding to help someone overcome a challenge we have just conquered. By passing along lessons we had to learn the hard way, we can break a vicious cycle of frustration and turn it into a virtuous, encouraging loop.
It helps us think strategically
Advising others helps shift our focus back to the big picture. The more I worked with others to balance their short-term and long-term goals, the more thoughtful I became with my own choices.
We always need young talent
Employers need employees just as much as people need jobs. When I get to know outstanding young colleagues, I can later recommend them for roles in which they shine. Unlocking their potential may very well be to my benefit down the road.
The people we mentor are critical members of our network
A mentor relationship should never be quid pro quo, but it does go both ways. The people I mentor have connected me to their own networks, recommended me for positions, and informed me of new opportunities.
It enhances our own reputations
Who wants to be known as someone who takes, but never gives back? When we offer our time as mentors, we demonstrate that we are the kind of employee, manager, partner, client, or leader who puts people first and pay it forward for all those who mentored us.
Mentorship keeps us relevant
When we talk to members of the next generation, we become more sensitive to their needs and challenges. For me, as both a manager and a strategist with twenty-somethings in my target audience, this perspective is invaluable.
The people we mentor inspire us
The longer we stay in our careers, the easier it is to forget what first motivated us. When I was still in the Foreign Service, talking to aspiring diplomats reminded me what international engagement was supposed to be about. Mentorship helped me to keep my work aligned with my values.
We have a personal stake in the next generation’s success
When one of my best friends had a daughter, my thinking about women’s issues totally changed. I want the world to be a better place for her and for every new member of humanity. Besides, I plan to stick around a while, and it is a lot more rewarding to live in a place that is changing for the better.
Mentorship reminds me that it’s okay to rely on others
Recently, I reached out to my entire professional network to ask for help with a career shift. It was nerve-wracking, but I thought about how I respond whenever people reach out to me—I always find a way to say yes. The knowledge that I am willing to help others allowed me to trust that others would be willing to help me. And I was right.
Photo: Getty Images
Are you a mentor? What motivates you and how do you reach out? Share your feedback with us in the comments!