When asked by WISE to be a mentor in the WISE Within program for a second time, schedule aside, it was a no-brainer. Mentoring is simply a way to give back in recognition of all those who have knowingly or unknowingly mentored me through the years.
Think of all the people who have openly — or discreetly — been a mentor to you: teachers, coaches, professors, relatives, religious leaders, friends, supervisors and co-workers. Now, think of all the times you’ve acted as a mentor — in high school, in college, in sport, in church, in the workplace and in the home. Finally, think of all the best practices and tips exchanged along the way. Perhaps your communications skills were sharpened or your ability to manage conflicts strengthened. Maybe you helped someone else attain work-life balance or bolster his or her confidence level. These relationships and exchanges are invaluable.
Whether or not we sign up for the job, we are all mentors, so what could possibly be a reason not to participate in a mentorship program? It’s easy to let your schedule be a barrier, but in this day of connectedness, it’s a weak excuse. Another reason might be fear that your experience or knowledge is too limited to help someone else. Each time I meet with a mentee, I’m inwardly encouraged by my ability to use what I’ve learned along the way to help.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments when I wondered whether I was equipped to help in a given situation. But I honestly don’t believe there is an expectation that a mentor can solve everything. Consider this: Your mentee is in a professional situation that perhaps you have never experienced. How do you help? The value you, as a mentor, provide is the experience over a multitude of past events that makes your recommended approach viable and safe. You have the knowledge and experience to help the mentee work the problem through to a place that is comfortable for him or her, even if you’ve never experienced the exact circumstances.
In the end, the mentee-mentor relationship is just that, a relationship, and in relationships, the expectation is that sharing is the benefit. It is an opportunity to talk and be listened to, an opportunity to explore the what-ifs in a safe environment and an opportunity to teach and be taught.
I believe we are all mentors. The best part is we’re all mentees at the same time. If we don’t take advantage of it, we’re really missing out on something great.