This informal CPD article The Benefits of Being a Mentor was provided by Alison, Free Online Learning Provider.
When we think of personal development, we tend to think in terms of self-improvement through learning and upskilling. We feel that in order to develop, we must gain expertise or add knowledge to our existing skillset through education and training. However, there is another road to personal development, not through learning but teaching.
The Benefits of Being a Mentor
Becoming a mentor can be one of the most rewarding experiences, both personally and professionally, you'll ever have. Many companies already facilitate mentorship programmes and if your company doesn't then why not be the person to start one?
There is also no shortage of mentorship opportunities run through community centres, youth training schemes and post-incarceration programmes. There are countless motivated learners out there eager to learn from the professional experience of someone who has already made a success of themselves in their field.
Whether you decide to pass on your expertise within or without your workplace, the benefits for your own career path are significant.
First Teacher, Then Manager
You should always seize an opportunity to teach as it is always an opportunity to learn. By mentoring a tutee, you have the chance to develop not just your teaching skills but also your management skills. Being a mentor requires the same skillset as being a manager - communication, compassion, leadership. While good managers successfully manage teams, great managers successfully manage individuals. Mentoring is even more important if you'd like to earn a managerial position at work but your current role within the company doesn't allow you to exercise and develop your managerial skillset.
Reevaluating your Skillset
One of the hidden positives of being a mentor is that, in order to pass on your expertise, you have to consciously consider your skillset and knowledge. Conducting a "professional balance sheet" like this is not something we often get the chance to do, but it's an invaluable exercise. By evaluating the skills you have to pass on to a tutee, you might realise that you're more qualified than you thought you were. When you need to think about transferring skills, you have to really identify them, and you might find that your CV has been doing you a disservice or that you’re even underpaid!
However, the reverse can also be true. As your tutee will likely be someone with only an entry-level skillset in your field, you'll probably find yourself having to train them up in certain basics which you haven't had to think about in a long time. Don't be surprised if you discover that your grasp of some of these "basics" is rustier than you thought! The positive is that once you've identified this issue, you can take steps to address it through an online refresher course.
Learning to Learn
As a mentor, you'll find yourself in a learning environment, albeit one in which you're the one doing the teaching. Nonetheless, being in an educational space is a great way to reawaken your own learning muscles. As we advance on our career paths and accrue experience and gain more responsibilities, it can become harder to feel like we have the "right" to keep learning or seek guidance from the few colleagues who hold higher positions.
Being a mentor means you'll be asked questions all the time, and you might find that some of them are questions, or types of questions, that you yourself might find useful to ask people above you in your own place of work. As you are exposed to the enthusiasm and curiosity that is natural to someone starting out on a new professional journey, you might find yourself learning as much, if not more, from your tutee as they learn from you. If you can take that energy and implement it in your own workplace (perhaps even by initiating a similar tutee-mentor relationship with someone from whom you feel you have much you could learn), then you're time as a mentor will certainly have been time well spent.
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