Behind every successful person, there is a mentor who helped them along the way. Mentees gain numerous benefits. However, the benefits of being a mentor accrue from the mentoring relationship as well. You don’t have to look far to see some excellent mentoring relationships:
- Steve Jobs mentored Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who praised Jobs for his guidance in this Charlie Rose interview.
- Oprah Winfrey had a great mentoring relationship with the author Maya Angelou. Oprah said, “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. Mentors are important, and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship.”
- Warren Buffett’s iconic mentor was Benjamin Graham, known as the father of value investing who wrote “The Intelligent Investor.” After reading it, Buffett went to Columbia Business School to study under Graham and became lifelong friends. He has credited Graham for his career and investment philosophy. Today, Buffett and Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, have had a similar relationship for nearly 30 years.
- Dr. Benjamin E. Mays was Dr. Martin Luther King’s spiritual mentor.
- Michelle Robinson (now Obama) was Barack Obama’s designated mentor at Sidley Austin law firm when they worked there, and he was a summer associate.
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What Is A Mentor? What Makes That Person A Good Mentor?
A mentor acts in the best interest of a less experienced person or mentee. They provide expertise, transferring professional knowledge and feedback from an experienced vantage point. Good mentors have the willingness and desire to share what they know, actively listen carefully, and possess empathy and understanding.
Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful effects on students, employees, entrepreneurs, and future leaders. As a result of those benefits, mentees become great mentors themselves based on positive benefits. Mentees then pass on their successful experience, becoming influential mentors in the future. Effective mentoring enhances career development in schools and organizations.
A Life-Changing Experience
I owe my success to several individuals who have provided me with significant guidance. Without their help, I doubt I would have achieved the accomplishments I have. My first mentor was my best friend in high school who tutored me in trigonometry. As a result, I scored 84% on the NY Regents exam without having completed the coursework. I was allowed to skip math in my final term in high school.
As an equity analyst, I leapfrogged my way to managing director with coaching from more seasoned senior analysts in my equity department. They coached me on finding undercovered companies to recommend to institutional investors, write my ideas clearly, and market to institutional investors like Fidelity. A good mentoring relationship is memorable for both parties.
Having been elevated by my mentors, I found every opportunity to serve as one in several capacities. As a senior analyst, I nurtured several junior analysts, sharing my experience. As a professor now, I enjoy the opportunity to coach students in a unique mentoring program at our school. Each of my mentoring relationships has been very different and rewarding.
According to several studies, students who have mentors are more likely to improve developmentally, complete their undergraduate degree, and volunteer as mentors themselves. Adding to these advantages, the American Psychological Association has pointed to the lifelong benefits of mentoring as potentially life-changing.
Tips To Having A Successful Mentoring Relationship
1. Open Communications
From the initial meeting with your mentor/mentee, interactivity will be essential. Whether you are a student or an employee, it is up to you to communicate your goals and desired outcomes. Share your background with your mentor to open communications. Laying out this background is always a good starting point. A mentoring relationship is valuable but takes time to find common ground.
2. Be Respectful
Both parties need to be respectful of each other. That means showing up on time. Your meetings should be in a comfortable environment. It can be intimidating at first for mentees to open up to those who are mentors. As a mentor, I have often shared some of my failures as I, like others, have not had straight lines to achievement. My message is that there is hard work right from the starting gate to tangible accomplishments.
3. Define Expectations
You need to define your expectations before seeking guidance from your coach. Seek out advice from your mentor as to whether your career development goals are reasonable. Your mentor can give you feedback and help you shape your goals. Make sure your mentor knows what to expect from you and vice-versa. Talk to your advisor if you are unsure about assignments you need to do for the next meeting.
Research ahead of your meeting if you are considering a particular career. Look up what courses or experience you may need to get an interview with an organization. Have a list of questions for your mentor about this area. I have had some great meetings where the student came in with specific areas of interest, and we matched some of their skills. We were able to determine where those students would benefit from further development like public speaking.
4. Be Engaged And Maintain Contact
As mentees, you will get out of the program what you put in. A good coach will respond to your motivation. Send emails with updates. Every term, I have a set number of mentees who reach out and set up appointments with me. I may provide topics that mentees can add to or change. Ask questions and converse as your mentor wants to understand you and your needs. Those that have the most drive to achieve are the most rewarding to inspire.
However, I recall one student in my business law class who was not a happy camper. Christina told me she had little interest in my class or writing a term paper when we met. The topic was to pick a landmark case decided by the US Supreme Court based on her interest. It turned out, Christina was interested in segregation, and her landmark case was Brown vs. Board of Education. In law school, I had a tremendous professor who was a scholar of that case and its aftermath.
It turned out that Christina loved doing her paper. She became so engaged in the business law class that she switched her career choice. After graduating from community college, finishing her four-year college with a stunning GPA, she went to law school! Today, Christina is a practicing attorney, and we stay in touch on Linkedin.
5. Be Honest And Trustworthy
Both parties need to be honest with each other. Let your mentor know what you do not understand. Feel free to voice your own opinion, even if it is different from theirs. It’s your “dime” as your mentor is serving you as best as they can according to your needs. Ask for feedback if you feel you are not getting enough constructive criticism.
Relationships take time to build trust. First meetings can be stilted and awkward. I usually have a few icebreaker exercises to make my mentee partner comfortable sharing their thoughts. Every student reacts differently based on their own experience. Trust takes more time.
6. Be Reliable and Consistent
Whether you are a student or an employee, you must be reliable. Showing up is not necessarily reliable. As a manager of junior analysts in my group, I had various people possessing different skill sets. As such, they helped each other. Most knew they were working in an intense environment on Wall Street where high pay begets high demands and long hours on the job.
If you can succeed here, rewards are plentiful. I appreciated their support and consistency in helping with our product. They benefited by learning how to communicate with our companies’ senior management, institutional clients and strengthen critical thinking and writing skills. As a mentor, my job was to transfer knowledge, provide feedback, and actively interact as a team.
I did have one employee, Martin, who went against the grain. He defied an easy description. Bright, pleasant, but aloof in a team that worked together. What I can say is this: Martin lacked ambition and passion in a highly competitive environment. He did not invest in the job or with his peers. Being unreliable or inconsistent, Martin had few personal goals other than to leave at 5 pm. Hiring him was one of the few disappointments. I was “mentoring” someone who just didn’t want any help.
10 Benefits of Being A Mentor
Through mentoring, there is a mutual way of learning and allowing both participants to develop transferable skills to add to their respective experiences. Effective mentoring advances your mentee by spending time and know-how with an employee or a student. I wanted to be a good, if not a great mentor.
1. Improve Communication and Personal Skills
Initially, your mentoring relationship is working on building a rapport. The best way to do that is to listen carefully and provide relevant feedback actively. Developing your listening skills is an essential skill to have and to hone. Yet too often, we aren’t good listeners because we have short attention spans or conflicting demands. To be effective in our jobs, careers, and lives, we need to listen to understand, learn, and be empathetic.
By being a better listener, you can be a better partner, improve productivity, and understand more. A mentoring relationship provides a chance to practice these necessary skills while transferring knowledge to the mentee.
2. Develop Leadership And Management Skills
I wanted to be a Wall Street equity analyst in part because I didn’t want to manage other people. As such, you are an island focused on your industry group and individual stocks. We may have interacted with other analysts as colleagues, but we were not managing each other. However, over time, as I hired junior analysts who I mentored, I became their manager. Being their boss required a very different skill set. My junior analysts helped me learn how to lead them better to support our group through feedback, asking questions, and telling me what they needed to succeed.
Make use of the feedback mechanisms. I realized that my vision was not always the right answer and had to adjust to new ways.
3. Reinforce My Knowledge On Subjects And Provides A Different Perspective
As a mentor, you are imparting knowledge and your own experiences. Yet, mentoring is a two-way street. I have expanded my knowledge base and gained new perspectives as well. Many of my students are immigrants and bring their own incredible culture and educational backgrounds to the forefront. Accounting standards and financial markets differ country by country. Active conversations about trade talks with others from outside the US are fascinating. I enjoy learning from their experiences.
4. Promotes Self-Reflection
By sharing your experiences, you are reliving what worked for you. Your mentee is interested in what attributes and strengthens are needed in the workplace. Sharing your perspective validates your strengths and may even surprise you about how good you were at your job.
Even in revisiting some past failures, you may be recognizing mistakes you can now correct. I relived past failures, a good lesson to share with mentees. Letting them know how you dealt with a problematic trade-off can be helpful. For example, when sharing some of the opportunities I once had, I recalled the trade-offs I had to make. I had received an offer with higher compensation from another firm, but I wanted to stay if I could expand coverage. It turned out I had made the better decision at the time. With hindsight, when speaking with my mentee, I realized a more in-depth view of my path and achievements.
5. Boost Confidence And Motivation
Teaching or advising others lifts my motivation for my field. Making time for others who want to learn from you reinforces any doubt of your worth. Transfering what you have learned in the past and helping others is exhilarating. Their enthusiasm is infectious and gives me energy. Hearing my students say that they appreciated my advice and their situation worked out feels good.
At college, I am part of a mentoring program on campus with several colleagues. We recently attended a conference recruiting students and faculty to join the expanding program. We all listened to each other expound on the various benefits we gained. There was tremendous energy as we all recognized these good feelings.
6. Advocate For Others
Mentors are part-cheerleaders, part-champions for their counterparts. It is sometimes easier to advocate for others. Studies show women are better advocators than themselves. In a workplace environment, I went to bat for my junior analysts to get them better raises, bonuses, and opportunities to travel to conferences. As their mentor, I knew how hard they worked at intense times.
Teaching self-advocacy is essential. I encourage my students to promote themselves. A big part of our mentoring relationship is to guide them toward understanding what differentiates a good student in and out of the classroom and readying them for their careers. Teaching others to speak up is a big part of career development.
7. Antidote To Procrastination And Anxiety
Providing coaching to others may stop you from pursuing your procrastination, according to a study. As a mentor, you are promoting the best version of yourself. While tracking other employees, you are likely to be more mindful of wasting time and avoid costly procrastination. It may help you to prioritize your own professional goals. Another study said that advising junior colleagues can reduce anxiety and improve mentors’ mental health in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour.
8. Opportunity To Volunteer
We are all looking for ways to improve our CVs and resumes. Effectively mentoring others is a skill to learn and practice. Mentoring programs are sprouting up in many environments and are found to be valuable ways to build communities. If you have a set of competencies and can spend time helping others, it is an enriching experience.
9. Expand Your Network
It is always good to meet new people, especially in your field. Cultivating your network may not necessarily be the motivating factor to be a mentor. However, good relationships are always good to have. I have kept in touch with many people I knew as students or junior analysts. I enjoy following their paths to success and many achievements. These connections are invaluable. Every friend we have had was once a stranger.
Treat your growing network as wealth. The value of each new person that joins your network expands your future reach.
10. Personal Growth and A Sense of Fulfillment
Employees who serve as mentors report greater job satisfaction and commitment to their organization. There have been several studies that link mentoring with career development and growth. In a 2013 study, Rajashi Ghosh and Thomas G. Reio found that mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to their companies than non-mentors.
In many fields, a mentoring program shows potential employees a good corporate culture. An employee or supervisor taking someone under their wing promotes a different kind of bonding and global knowledge sharing. A supportive environment is right for the organization.
Employee engagement can reduce turnover, always a critical goal. Mentoring others is an effective way of experiencing work as meaningful. A 2015 study by Pam Kennett and Tim Lomas based on in-depth interviews produced findings that experienced mentors enhanced work-related fulfillment.
Mentoring relationships are win-win for both participants. For the mentee, it means gains insights and experiences from a seasoned person wanting to help you in school, career, sports, or at your workplace. The mentor realizes personal fulfillment while supporting a mentee. There may be hidden perks like improved habits such as listening carefully to others and reduced procrastination. I have always been grateful for the honor and opportunity to mentor someone.
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With a passion for investing and personal finance, I began The Cents of Money to help and teach others. My experience as an equity analyst, professor, and mom provide me with unique insights about money and wealth creation and a desire to share with you.