Why the Mentor-Mentee Relationship Matters Personally and Professionally

older mentor helping a younger mentee

Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” An intellectual giant himself—a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, inventor and philosopher—he recognized that he was building upon the achievements of the intellectuals who preceded him. Newton’s humility and grounded view of his own faculties stemmed from the belief that knowledge is cumulative and builds upon itself. As defined, mentorship is a process wherein an expert assists an apprentice in developing the skills and knowledge that will enrich the apprentice’s growth, personally and professionally.

Understanding Mentorship

Often used interchangeably with “coaching”, the key differences of mentoring and coaching lies in the duration and the goal of the relationship. Coaching is usually short term and focused on a specific issue or objective. Mentoring, on the other hand is an ongoing relationship and can last for a long period of time. Additionally, the mentee’s career and personal development gets more emphasis.

In a business and corporate setting, mentoring has been broadly classified into two forms; the formal type and the informal type. In formal mentoring, the organization assigns the relationship. In this type, the guidelines and objectives set by the organization are aligned with business objectives. This is in contrast with the informal mentorship that develops more organically when two individuals discover their mutual interests. As one person begins to take on the listener-mentee role, receiving guidance from the adviser-mentor, an informal mentorship is developed.

Personal Benefits of Mentorship

We start out in our careers with so much uncertainty. One wrong move may set your career off track. Mentorship can serve as a compass to help navigate our professional and personal lives. Here are some ways mentorship can help with the journey:

Career Guidance

Here is an inspiring list of notable mentor-mentee relationships from various disciplines:

  • Film: Martin Scorsese mentored critically-acclaimed film maker Oliver Stone as a student at the New York University.
  • Sports: Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong received guidance from Eddy Merckx.
  • Business: Freddie Laker guided Richard Branson to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time.

These success stories would have turned out differently had they not connected with their respective mentors. This is because the guidance and insights provided by a mentor are often rooted in experiences and past errors. It helps the mentee avoid the same mistakes in their own career.

Motivation and Drive

The direction provided by a mentor lessens the likelihood of a mentee committing mistakes. This consequently, increases the chances for success. With more success, a mentee becomes more confident, motivated and inspired in their careers. Likewise, in moments of defeat, a mentor can help you gather your strength and encourage you to start over again. It is also a mentor’s job to stretch goals and push the mentee to go out of his or her comfort zone. Challenges and goals encourage a mentee to grow and unleash hidden potential.

Network and Connections

A more experienced mentor carries with him or her a rich network of connections. An apprentice who is just starting out in his or her career can benefit from these ties. A mentor can introduce a mentee to the right people if the need arises. Someone who has been around longer knows which strings to pull for help. Furthermore, a mentor gives the apprentice a chance to be noticed. The mentor can mention the mentee’s name in meetings and discussions. This will afford the apprentice executive visibility and a shot to participate in projects and tasks.

Benefits of Mentorship to the Business

Companies are very much aware of the benefits of a robust mentorship program. This is why 71% of the 500 Fortune Companies are offering mentorship programs. These companies include Google, Caterpillar, General Electric and Intel. Learning and knowledge sharing was also found to be 80% more effective between mentors and mentees.  Employee satisfaction is higher leading to higher employee engagement and lower turnover rate.

The cost of sourcing, hiring and training employees can amount to twice the amount of the employee’s annual salary. Not to mention the production and customer service errors and cultural impact of leaving employees. Through mentoring, companies are also creating rock star leaders—leaders who are high performers, living the values of the organization’s and willing to take on bigger and more challenging responsibilities.

Mentorship as a Tool to Empower the Youth

The process of mentorship benefits extends well beyond the corporate world. Mentorship in the field of academe and youth development will be beneficial to the overall well-being of young adults. A study conducted by Mentor National Mentoring Partnership found out that young people who have mentors are more likely to enroll in college. Another research conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across Canada, determined that children and teenagers with mentors are more confident and less likely to exhibit behavioral problems. Ultimately, all children and young adults need supportive mentors. Mentors who can listen to their concerns with authentic interest and push them just enough to come out of their comfort zones. And consequently grow up to be self-confident and well-adjusted individuals.

Begin your mentorship journey

Mentorship can be a rewarding process if done in the right way. You have to start by finding the right mentor. A mentor can be anyone who is willing to share their knowledge through books, blogs, online courses and conferences. If you are willing to invest money in your career development, there are professional coaches who can guide you throughout your professional development. Or the mentor you are looking for may be within the organization you are in. Just keep in mind not to choose a mentor based solely on position. Ultimately, your mentor should be someone who is successful both in their professional and personal lives.

About the Author

Josh Miles is a St. Petersburg/Tampa based writer who studied Business Management and Marketing at the University of South Florida. He believes that time spent with good friends and a connection with nature are keys to a healthy and happy life. In his free time, you will find him exercising, listening to music, or playing video games with friends.
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