Professional Development

4 Reasons to Seek and Be a Mentor

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It’s been an intense start to the year, hasn’t it? As marketers, we tend to load up the front half of our year with too many events and (sometimes unrealistic) goals. By the end of Q2, we’re exhausted. Our budgets are under scrunity and suddenly, becoming a novelist or going back to school to fulfill your lifelong passion of becoming a professional ballerina (despite not making it past beginning ballet at age five) is starting to look REALLY good.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. We tend to try to solve all of our problems by ourselves out of fear of being perceived as ineffective or unintelligent. You don’t have to navigate the workplace by yourself. Mentorship can play a vital part in any healthy and productive work environment.

Unfortunately, mentor programs in the workplace are not as prevalent as they should be. In fact, 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs, but 79% of Millennials view mentorship as crucial for workplace success. Furthermore, those who have a mentor are twice as likely to intend to stay with an organization for five or more years.

In this blog, I’ll cover why you need to seek a mentor and be a mentor, no matter where you are in your career.

It’s Never Too Early or Too Late 

“When I was at IBM, employees volunteered to work with 4th and 5th-grade classes and talk about the importance and role of math and science in life. In one class, we showed the role of math in baking chocolate as a relatable example of math in action. 

Mentorship is a great way to help employees navigate areas in a company that might be murky or new, especially if they are a minority. A mentor can provide a “penalty-free” question and personal development zone where employees can more safely and openly learn how to navigate teams, manage careers and demystify tacit company characteristics and culture.” Sandra Zoratti, CMO & Co-Founder, The Marketer Network

Are you mid- or late-career employee who has never had a formal mentor before? Consider a reverse mentorship where you are paired with a younger worker to learn about how you can improve the business together. This mutually beneficial relationship can enhance your perspective while helping a younger worker benefit from your experience and relationship building skills.

Early career and eager to share your story? You may not think you have a lot to offer yet, but think about how much your life has changed since graduation. Consider reaching out to your university or a local high school to start talking with students on what your steps were between where they are and gainful employment.

You Need a Sounding Board

“Be proactive and invest in building relationships. Seek out female and male colleagues, managers, mentors, role models, and sponsors who can serve as sounding boards and provide advice and encouragement. The diverse set of relationships I’ve built throughout my career has helped me through the most difficult times and lifted me during the greatest moments. Some women make the mistake of keeping to a small circle of other women similar to themselves — the key is to make an effort to expand your community and find people who will challenge and stretch you.” Clara Shih, CEO/Founder, Hearsay

Broaden your circle; take a chance on a new hire or on someone you view as being unapproachable who’s been with the company for years. The insight you can gain from another’s perspective can be invaluable. And, of course, advice and encouragement are both important, especially when they come from someone who knows what you’re going through.

It’s Okay to Fail

I want to make this clear: no one is expecting transformative results from you immediately. Starting a mentor relationship will not completely change your life in one meeting. Your first mentor or mentee may not be a great fit. You might schedule and reschedule your mentorship meeting four or five times before it actually happens. Keep at it.

Be sure you’re not limiting yourself when it comes to selecting a mentor. Mentors do not have to be in your industry, company, or even in a role you’re aspiring to. Look into mentors who have leadership styles that you admire, reach out to people who have taken the road less traveled, or find a someone who is drastically different from you. Everyone has something to teach you.

“Start by encouraging employees to bring their whole self to work. That means their passions for mountain biking, crocheting, extreme ironing, tree shaping or whatever. If we’re building products and services for customers with diverse backgrounds, then we have to have companies reflect the makeup of our customers. Companies can encourage workplace diversity by asking for different points of view. Cultures kill diversity through things like making disagreement a CLM (career limiting move), rewarding “think like me” behavior, and looking to hire new employees that think like existing ones.” Carla Johnson, Author & Chief Experience Officer, Type A Communications

Impact Your Bottom Line

77% of companies that have a mentoring program reported that it improved both employee retention and job performance. Employee turnover rates are reduced, and those who are involved in a positive mentoring relationship within their place of employment are more likely to be engaged and dedicated employees. Furthermore, encouraging and seeking diverse mentor/mentee relationships can bring fresh ideas to the table and help create new dialogue in your organization.

“When you value perspectives as a way to broaden the outlook of the entire team, you minimize your blind spots, and you optimize your perspectives. When you implement that, you actually have significant opportunities to see things that, quite frankly, your competitors don’t see. Teams are much, much stronger when you get a very diverse set of perspectives.” Jim D’Arcengelo, SVP, UpCity

Whether you’re a Fortune 500 CEO with retirement on the horizon or an early career marketer in your first startup role after graduation, mentorship can have huge and measurable benefits for your business. Encourage diversity in the selection of mentors and focus on creating opportunities for those who may not feel confident enough to seek mentorship on their own. When we create an environment where it’s okay to ask questions and fail, we create a place that employees want to dedicate their value to instead of a place where they come to collect a paycheck.

Who was the best mentor you’ve ever had? Why were they great? What advice would you give to those who are looking to start a mentorship program? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.