One of the many benefits to mentorship is gaining knowledge from a seasoned leader. Through the course of the relationship, one grows immeasurably more with a mentor giving advice than by going down a career path alone. However, an aspect of mentorship that sometimes goes unnoticed is the knowledge and expertise a mentee brings to the table. If you are thinking of mentoring someone, there are three things you can expect to learn from them.
Depending on the age difference between you and your mentee, there’s a good chance of a generational gap existing. Spending time with a young professional can give you a better understanding of what other generations—like Millennials—want with their careers and how they expect to be managed. The more you interact with professionals of all ages the better you will understand your own employees’ wants and needs. Sometimes issues that arise in the office can be attributed to simple generational differences. Conflict management, communication, and engagement techniques can vary between generations. And though you may feel you handle these issues well, spending time with a younger professional may be exactly what you need to become a better leader yourself.
Regardless of your career level, you can always use more leadership training, and developing a new relationship with a young professional may do just that. Though a mentor relationship is different from a managerial one between you and your employees, there is an aspect that is the same—you’re in a position of influence. When others are looking to you for guidance, it makes you more aware of what you’re communicating in word and action. This self-awareness is a great skill to hone when leading others and can be further developed while mentoring young professionals. From the start, establish open communication between you and your mentee. Inform him or her to be honest about how they perceive your interaction with them and learn from it. Sometimes it’s hard to see our own faults as a leader, so having a mentee point out areas needing improvement can help you lead others in your office more effectively.
Chances are your mentee is closer to college or grad school than you are. In every industry, procedures change and techniques get updated, so having a mentoring relationship with someone who just graduated college or finished professional training can actually help you stay current in your field. Before giving advice, be sure to ask your mentee how they would approach a situation or handle a problem, then analyze their thought process. Just because you have more experience in a particular career than they do doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from them. For example, if you’re a seasoned executive, you may feel face-to-face is the most effective way of communicating; however, younger generations may feel completely comfortable connecting with people online. Understanding how people do business differently is the first step in being able to effectively and efficiently interact with one another.
Mentorships are a great way to impart knowledge to other professionals, but they’re also a great way to learn how to be a better leader yourself. If you already have a mentee or are considering being a mentor, be ready to learn. You’ll be surprised what a mentee can teach you.
What have you learned through mentorships? What are a few things your mentee has taught you? Let us know in the comments section below!