Mentoring is a Two-Way Street
We know that it is important for individuals to be mentored because it can provide a pathway for career enhancement. What we don’t think about as much is that mentoring not only benefits the protégé, it also benefits the mentor.
These benefits are important to discuss because mentoring is a considerable investment of time and energy. Many of us consider mentoring to be a purely altruistic activity that only aids the career of the mentee. But what do mentors gain?
Research shows that mentors are rewarded with tangible benefits such as:
- Mutual learning
- Enhanced managerial skills
- Heightened visibility in the organization
- Esteem among peers and superiors
- Increased salary and promotions
And intangible benefits such as:
- Personal gratification
- Enhanced career satisfaction
- Increased organizational commitment
I have mentored numerous students, junior faculty and staff in my 20 years in academia. I’ve even been recognized with a university-wide mentoring award. Each relationship has been a substantial investment on my part that has required consistent and deliberate effort to make it work. And each relationship has conferred unique benefits.
By talking about these benefits, I’m not saying that all mentoring relationships are easy or that there are only positive outcomes. Human relationships can be messy. Through mentoring, I’ve improved my ability to see situations from another’s perspective. Even when a mentoring relationship is challenging, both the mentor and mentee can learn and grow. For example, a recent mentoring relationship was difficult until I learned how to clearly communicate my boundaries. As a result of another recent relationship, I am pursuing a new area of research in my field. Taken together, my mentoring relationships have helped me better understand my strengths and limitations.
For me, though, nothing compares to the gratification I feel when contributing to the development of future leaders in my organization and in my field. My mentees have gone on to be leaders in their own right and to be recognized at the highest levels of their professions. This keeps me going and makes me even more willing to mentor future leaders.
What could happen if we all viewed mentoring as two-way street? Organizations could promote the benefit of mentoring to the mentor. More senior colleagues may be inclined to serve as mentor. Everybody benefits.
Eby, L. T., & Lockwood, A. (2005). Protégés’ and mentors’ reactions to participating in formal mentoring programs: A qualitative investigation. Journal of vocational behavior, 67(3), 441-458.
Eby, L. T., Durley, J. R., Evans, S. C., & Ragins, B. R. (2006). The relationship between short-term mentoring benefits and long-term mentor outcomes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69(3), 424-444.
Allen, T. D., Lentz, E., & Day, R. (2006). Career success outcomes associated with mentoring others: A comparison of mentors and nonmentors. Journal of Career Development, 32(3), 272-285.
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