The benefits of having a mentor in the office are pretty well-known now. You’ll gain knowledge, contacts, insight into the company culture, a wise and experienced sounding board, someone to recognize your talents, a sense of belonging—the list goes on and on.
But, as it turns out, mentoring is not just good for the mentee—it’s actually more of a two-way street than most people realize. (And no, I’m not just talking about those warm fuzzies you get when you help someone out.) The HR department at Sun Microsystems conducted a study showing that mentors were over 20% more likely to receive a pay rise and six times more likely to bag a promotion than those who didn’t take part in a mentoring program. Six times!
How is that possible? Let’s take a look:
1. It Makes You a Better Leader
As a mentor, you need to be remain objective, keep an open mind, and have the ability to ask really pertinent questions. In addition, you need to be a coach—helping your mentee understand where she’s gone wrong, or why his career’s stalling. And this all has to be done without hurting any feelings or playing the blame game. That’s a balancing act worthy of Cirque du Soleil.
Learning how to work with people you don’t have a natural affinity with, demonstrating patience with those in need of support and guidance, and helping people figure out how to best move forward are all trademarks of great leaders. The more you work at it on a one-on-one basis, the more you’ll improve at it in a larger group setting.
2. It Helps You Learn More About Your Company
Let’s say you’re the head of finance. You’ve worked your way up, you’re qualified, and you know everything there is to know about the financial dealings of your company.
But what do you know what the challenges, the purpose, and the daily workload of other teams? Not much, probably. Well, it’s time to broaden your view. Mentoring can be a very smart way of gaining insight into what goes on in the areas that you’ve never been involved with. We’re not suggesting you launch a covert spy mission—you’re just a smart person gathering information and arming yourself with knowledge that might be useful in the years to come.
After all, if you want to move from head of finance to CEO in the next five years, it’s time to start thinking very strategically about where you fit in on the ladder, and being a mentor will not only increase your chances of being promoted (quickly), but it will also shine a light on areas you’ve never had to think about too much before.
3. It Makes You Feel Great
Fine, I lied earlier. There are some warm fuzzies involved. To take a newbie by the hand and lead him or her to success might be one of the most amazing things you can do with your time at work. Especially considering that most people will spend approximately 90,000 hours at the office within their lifetime. (I know. Horrifying.) So it’s vital to your own well-being that you try to make the most of your time there. And, believe it or not, watching someone else accomplish his or her goals can feel just as amazing as watching yourself do it.
Don’t worry, there’s a selfish career element to it as well—your time with your mentee won’t go unnoticed, especially if he or she starts hitting milestones quickly. And you’ll (hopefully) be credited by upper management with helping that person get there. Nothing says promotion material more than: “able to selflessly help others.”
As you can see, being a mentor has a ton of hidden benefits—including developing your leadership skills, making more money, and getting to feel like an overall good person. Feeling left out because your company doesn’t currently offer an official program? No stress, you can seek out your own mentorship opportunities by simply finding someone you’d like to work with—and offering your time to him or her. Or if you don’t have a person in mind, ask other managers if there’s someone on their teams they think could benefit from this relationship.