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What Motivates Mentors and Why You Should Reach Out

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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!

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Mentorship #Advice #Personal Development #Strategy #Career Inspiration Relationships Levo Inspired Career Advice
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These are great tips, thank you Candace. I will be using this article as a reference over the next few months as I make a career shift.


Good read. Thank you, Candace. Makes me feel less opportunistic meeting my mentors. But we youngens do inspire somehow. :)

This article makes such good points! I don't think you realize how challenging and meaningful mentorship is until you're the one doing the mentoring.

What wonderful reasons to be a mentor!! It definitely is a positive mutual relationship. Whenever I am in a situation where I act as a mentor, I always find that I can learn from my own advice as well and even become more familiar with myself and what I need to work on! Also, the feeling of inspiring someone else and helping them reach their dreams is priceless.

Maggie Seaver
Maggie Seaver

I love the concept of relishing in the benefits of giving mentorship as well as receiving it. It's this sort of attitude in a mentor that will help people like me along my journey into the ever-dreaded "real world." Thanks, Candace!

I am so glad it's helpful! I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how happy people are to help. I certainly was.

We inspire at all ages, I hope. Go get 'em, Maria!

You're right, Kathleen. I think it also took me a long time to realize just how much my mentors have given me over the years. The more I think about their contributions to my career, the more inspired I am to pay it forward.

Isn't it funny how much helping others helps us?

Thank you for your kind comment! I hope you'll never be afraid to ask for help. Not everyone will respond positively, but you have to keep yourself open for those who will. We're out here. :)

I realize I'm seeing this post three years after it was originally posted - but it's still great info and very encouraging! It is important to find the 'perfect fit' of a mentee/mentor relationship. Keywords I'm taking away are: support, overcome, thinking, alignment, and relying.
Thanks Candace for your inspiration!

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