Mentoring has a wealth of benefits, both for the mentor and the mentee. Despite this, the vast majority of workers don’t have one. According to Forbes, only 36% of workers have one, despite 76% agreeing that mentors are valuable. It’s unclear exactly why this is. Perhaps some people don’t know where they would find a mentor or what qualities they should be looking for in them. It could also be the case that people are wary about asking for help, based on a belief they don’t need it or that asking for it would be a way of burdening someone.
It’s easier than ever to get a mentor or mentee using mentoring software like PushFar. You can use it to find or become a mentor within minutes, all while never leaving your home office. With this in mind, there are many reasons to become a mentor or a mentee, with the main benefit being the meaningfulness it offers. Russell Brand, for instance, has described in his book Mentors: How to Help and Be Helped just how important different types of mentors have been in his life, and so he advocates mentorship as a way of enacting real change, on both an individual and global level.
Why Mentoring is Meaningful for the Mentee
Most people want to find a mentor as a way to advance their career. However, as I’ve explained in a post on how mentoring benefits the well-being of boys and men, mentors can encompass all sorts of areas of life: relationships, mental health, sports, spirituality, and so on. In the context of mentors for boys and men (as well as any gender for that matter), the meaningfulness of mentoring partly comes down to how a mentor imparts wisdom to the mentee on how to be a mature, balanced, responsible, and authentic individual.
What it means to be a man, for example, is an important question for many boys and young men, and this is a vital question that mentors may, at times, answer; however, the role of the mentor is also helping the individual answer this question for themselves.
Whatever area of life you’re struggling with, you may be looking for a bit of support and guidance. By becoming a mentee, you will have close access to someone who has been there and done it all before. They’ve likely been in your position before, and are well placed to offer help and insights. Their experience is an invaluable resource that you’ll be able to tap into – often for no cost whatsoever.
Chances are, your mentor is much more experienced than you, and probably a bit older too. There might be things your mentor wished they did at your age, which they’ll be able to advise you on. There will be other things they did that they regret, and will be able to counsel you against.
We all have regrets in our lives, and we’ve all made decisions we’re thrilled we made. Mentors are no different, and you’ll be able to draw on their experiences to make wiser decisions in your own life.
The meaningfulness of mentoring also lies in the ability to help a mentee realise his or her potential (this may sound trite, but according to the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, a fulfilling and meaningful life depends on realising our untapped potential, which can include vices we are capable enough to dampen, virtues we are strong enough to cultivate, and other capabilities that, if developed, will serve both the well-being of ourselves and others).
Generally speaking, the reason most people seek out mentoring opportunities as a mentee is to advance in some way: improve a skill, change careers, excel in their current career, navigate relationships with grace, deal with patterns of stuckness. Again, there is meaning to be found in progress, in any area of concern, and to any degree, no matter how small. This sense of meaning can arise out from the realisation of personal autonomy and freedom, the ability to choose a self-directed life; or it may come from the intention to make progress for the sake of others (making a difference in the lives of others is also a strong determinant of felt meaningfulness).
Why Mentoring is Meaningful for the Mentor
Many people become mentors because they want to give something back. Perhaps they had a tough ride to get to the top of their profession and want to give something back. Or maybe they found it surprisingly easy to get into a difficult-to-enter career, and want to lower a rope ladder to those who are struggling to get their foot in the door. Whatever the case may be, mentorships have a variety of different benefits for the mentor, as well as the mentee.
Many of the same aspects of meaningfulness of mentoring that apply to mentees apply to mentors as well. For example, a mentoring relationship essentially encourages the mentor to manage the development of the mentee. This requires a degree of management, leadership, and empathic listening skills. If you don’t have these skills already, mentoring is a great way to develop them.
Working with younger, less experienced people than yourself is a great way of seeing different perspectives and gaining new outlooks. Without realising it, you can end up doing things a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always been done, rather than because it’s the most effective or beneficial approach. Many people think that a mentorship relationship is all about teaching the mentee. While that is certainly true, there is a bigger picture to keep in mind. Yes, you are there to guide the mentee and impart your wisdom, but along the way, they’ll teach you things as well.
Furthermore, mentoring can be a highly altruistic activity. You give up your time and ask for no money or reparation in return, to help someone you’ve never met improve their career or some area of life they’re struggling with. By simply helping someone else and seeing the fruits of those efforts, you can feel a sense of pride and achievement that’s hard to match. This sense of pride doesn’t simply end once the mentorship ends either. It’s fairly standard for mentors and mentees to stay in touch after the mentee is no longer seeking help. As a former mentor, you get to feel that pride and satisfaction all over again when you see your former mentee achieve the goals they came to you for help with achieving. And this kind of altruism – which leads to real, substantial improvements in the lives of others, as well as a deep sense of connection – is key to living a meaningful life.