In August 2016, when LinkedIn invited Stephanie Bailey to participate in a special mentorship program, she jumped at the chance. Bailey, head of marketing at the management platform company AgileCraft, found the experience fulfilling.
“I'm glad to see that LinkedIn is trying this again, but with a larger audience," says Bailey of the company's recently debuted service that matches potential mentors and mentees within their database. The free service was recently tested and is now available to select users with plans to broaden availability.
Bailey felt the need to give back, because her own career has benefited from a 15-year relationship with a mentor.
“While my mentor has helped me immensely, mentoring also benefits him," Bailey says. "He gets a new perspective on his views, new insight into marketing and the pleasure of helping to unlock some of my hidden potential and witness how he's influenced another successful career.
"Most importantly," she continues, "he gets the personal satisfaction of creating a lifelong relationship with a colleague and friend."
Why Business Owners Can Make Great Mentors
With their broad range of experience in all aspects of business, entrepreneurs and company owners can make excellent mentors.
“Most business owners and entrepreneurs have gone through the highs and lows of spectacular triumphs and miserable failures during their journeys," says Phil Shawe, CEO of TransPerfect, a translation and content management company. “The struggles many successful business owners have experienced often makes them capable of effectively mentoring younger professionals."
—Stephanie Bailey, head of marketing, AgileCraft
Rafiq Punjani, president of Anago Cleaning Systems—Manitoba, agrees. “Since most mentors have walked a similar path, [which can be a circuitous one], they often have great wisdom to share with mentees."
What Are the Benefits of Mentoring?
Just as there are numerous benefits for mentees of being mentored, mentoring also has its perks for mentors, such as:
Maximizing Your Impact and Time
Professional speaker and CEO of The Amplify Lab Joanna Bloor developed and hosts an annual speed mentoring event. One of Bloor's biggest challenges is fulfilling requests from less-seasoned professionals to meet for “brain-picking" sessions.
“If I said yes to every request, I'd be in the coffee shop a significant part of the day and not doing my day job," she says. “I'm always looking for ways to maximize my time while having maximum impact. Done properly, there's always a win for both the mentor and the mentee. Tools like LinkedIn's new program make it even easier."
Establishing Your Subject Matter Expertise
What you're known for as an executive can be key to landing senior positions, believes Bloor.
“Historically, other than speaking at conferences and general networking, there haven't been many ways to show your expertise," she says. "Mentoring within the LinkedIn platform could demonstrate that you know your subject matter and create career and business opportunities."
Strategically Giving Back to Those Who Show Initiative
To Bloor, few things are more rewarding than giving advice to mentees who possess initiative.
“The result is that your advice turns to action and action manifests as impact," she says. “I haven't spoken to any mentors who haven't been thrilled when mentees have acted on their guidance. It's why people mentor in the first place."
How to Make the Most of the Mentoring Relationship
In order to get the most benefits from mentoring for yourself and your mentee, keep the following in mind.
1. Be clear about what you can offer.
“Try not to be all things to everyone," says Bloor. Focusing on your strengths and abilities, consider outlining exactly what you can offer a mentee. Being yourself and sharing your uniqueness can go a long way toward guiding your mentee. You may also feel satisfied with your contribution.
2. Commit your time.
“Even if you just dedicate three to four hours per quarter to the mentee, it's important to set aside the time to mentor," says Bailey. “Small chunks of time can make a significant impact on someone's life and career path." That significant impact can make you feel great about the connection.
3. Keep an open mind.
A lot of mentor/mentee relationships include an age gap, notes Bailey. “Just listen," she advises. “You'll be surprised how much you can learn from your mentee."
4. Graciously accept praise.
“All mentorship programs are fueled with gratitude," says David Harder, author of The Workplace Engagement Solution and president of Inspired Work, Inc., a workplace engagement, career and leadership development firm.
“As a mentor, accept all acknowledgement and praise with graciousness," says Harder. “For example, if someone compliments you, avoid replying with, 'Oh it was nothing.' Gratitude fuels additional support."
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