For some, learning never ends. Those who are passionate about what they do, interested in innovation and curious will never stop learning. What often naturally accompanies these qualities is a desire to share this learning. Those who do so through mentoring are an indispensable source of knowledge and support for students. They are often rewarded with the huge sense of achievement enabling someone’s development can deliver.
Mentoring and being mentored isn’t just about professionals helping the young and inexperienced. Thanks to rapid digital technology development, there are increasing opportunities for what the Wall Street Journal called “reverse mentoring.” Senior executives at various companies are paired with younger, more technologically proficient mentors. It’s a win-win, since the mentoring is ultimately reciprocal: each learns how the business and technology shape each other.
Being a Mentor: What’s In It For You
As a mentor, you have the opportunity to share what you think is important about your field or area of expertise. You have the experience to usher someone into a new profession or an entirely new way of life, to show that person they are not alone in their endeavors. It is a privilege and it is also a responsibility. After all, as a mentor, you are entrusted with guiding someone who does not yet have your level of experience or knowledge. The sense of accomplishment you feel when you’ve applied your own understanding of an area and soft skill set to provide genuine support to another is profound.
Being a mentor also involves a great deal of responsibility. According to a 2016 Fortune magazine article, being a mentor means personally investing in your mentee. You’re not simply a good listener with valuable knowledge, you’re also someone who endorses and advocates on behalf of your mentee. You’re effectively putting your stamp of approval on this individual’s future.
Being a Mentee: What’s In It For You
A mentor is someone you can turn to for advice, someone who will listen to you, someone who understands what you’re going through having been there themselves. This person has the sort of big-picture viewpoint that comes with experience. You’re not looking to avoid trials and tribulations – the sorts of experiences that, ideally, yield wisdom. Instead, you’re looking for someone who wants to positively influence you, and help you grow. Having someone in your corner as you face the inevitable challenges will help you understand how to confront these challenges and translate lessons learned into principles to be applied going forward.
According to a 2016 Forbes magazine article, mentoring is a two-way street that requires a commitment from both the mentor and the mentee. Unless having a mentor is built into your academic program or employment, it’s up to you to seek one. The fact that you take the initiative to do so speaks volumes about your commitment to success.
Starting a Global Mentorship Relationship
In the digital age, the global community can feel practically intimate. You can exchange instant messages with someone thousands of miles away. You can have a real-time videophone conversation with multiple people, each in a different country. There is so much about this technology and the ever-growing innovations to be commended. Perhaps digital technology’s most noble feature is that it is a great equalizer. If you can get access to the internet, your whole world opens up in entirely new ways.
Non-profits give us a way to think about starting a global mentoring relationship. For example, the micro-lending organization, Kiva, was the first online lending platform that operated according to donations as little as $25 to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Once the money is repaid, it is loaned out to another entrepreneur. Part of the process involves mentoring the individuals who receive the loans. The goal is for them to grow their business enough not only to pay back the loan but also to expand the business and sustain a profit margin.
There are existing global mentoring organizations, each typically focused on an area of specialization. For example, Toptal Academy mentors work with minorities and individuals from low-income backgrounds to become professional software engineers.
The scope of the mentoring can be as broad or narrow as you see fit. From dermatology to social justice, there is no field that doesn’t benefit from mentorship programs. Best of all for you, there is likely to be an existing organization to help you get started.