For many young people, mentors are a lifeline. Research demonstrates that people—and that includes children, teens, young adults, and adults of all ages throughout their careers—benefit from having mentors in various ways. Results from one multi-disciplinary study show that “mentoring is associated with a wide range of favorable behavioral, attitudinal, health-related, relational, motivational, and career outcomes.”
I was inspired by a recent article on Tuscon.com which profiled a single mother of five who, despite her many demands as a parent, makes time to mentor a dozen children each week, volunteer as a track coach for a local high school, and serve as a board member for an elderly care organization. The article aptly dubbed Gonzalez a “superwoman.”
How can one person make such a difference, you ask? Easy. Embrace every opportunity. Currently, Gonzalez is, on top of everything else, studying for her doctorate in organizational leadership, but she doesn’t use busyness as an excuse not to get involved, saying:
“I don’t ever use my being a single mom as a reason not to be able to do something, not to go to college, not to advocate for someone, not to do stuff as a family with my kids …”
So, instead of focusing on the reasons why you cannot volunteer as a mentor, remember Gonzalez’s story and turn your attention to the reasons why you can and should.
Not sure what those reasons are? Here are three with which to start.
Reason #1: You have something to offer, even if you think you don’t.
This spring, Peter Thomson, a digital strategy expert with nearly 15 years experience, wrote about his decision to become a mentor for growing startup companies in an article for Inc.com.
“Mentoring makes you realize how far you’ve come in your own career and how much value you can add. You may actually know more than you realize you do. The best way to really test if you understand something is to try and explain it in simple enough terms that someone can act on it. Mentoring challenged me to articulate the lessons that I’ve learned from my own career in a clearer and more helpful manner.”
Allow me to echo the key lesson that Thomson imparts: You know more than you realize.
Reason #2: You will learn more than you can imagine.
I’ve learned that forming relationships with someone who is younger (and who has likely had different experiences) will teach you more about a topic with which you’re less familiar. After all, remember these wise words from Henry Ford who said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
Reason #3: Your network will become greatly enriched.
Although you may already have a thriving professional network at this stage in your career, a mentor-mentee relationship offers different pathways to forging connections that could benefit you, too. For example, working parents who volunteer with kids might find that those mentoring relationships will help them forge relationships with other parents who, in turn, could help provide a support system in other aspects of life.
The upshot: Embrace what you have to give, and you’ll be surprised what you get in return.