Aug 21, 2013

I’m always talking about the importance of getting and using mentors. Today I want to talk about also being a mentor.

When I first joined HP, I remember when I was asked to attend a meeting to discuss mentoring. I went in thinking, “Boy, I could really use a mentor…”

I was stunned when I realized that they called me in to BE a mentor. At this point in my career, I did not think that I had anything to offer as a mentor.

I didn’t know what I was doing

When my mentees would come and talk to me about what was happening in their jobs, I would share ideas and stories that I thought might be relevant. (I can’t emphasize enough that it did not feel like I was sharing anything of value.)

I was amazed when they would come back and say, “Thank you so much, I did what you said and it worked so well!

I’d be thinking, “What did I say?” And when they repeated back to me what they had learned and what they had done, I was staggered to find out that my stories and ideas had been so useful.

The reason this happens makes sense once you think about it. The things you know don’t seem fascinating or impressive to you because you already know them! And this gets me to the first reason you should be a mentor…

1. You can change the world for someone

For people who are younger and less experienced than you, when you share your knowledge and experiences you can change the world for that person. One of the greatest gifts of value you can give someone is to help them get something into their imagination.

By sharing that “this is a possibility, and it is a possibility for YOU,” you can open up entirely new paths in their life.

If this sounds overly grand, it is not.

I have had this done for me multiple times, and I have done this for others. When you give people new ideas and open doors for them, it truly changes their life.

So here, this is me, putting this into your imagination — you can change the world for someone.

2. You learn stuff

When you become a mentor you learn things about how things work at different levels and in different places. Additional context always makes you smarter.

If you mentor people in your company, you get new insight about how other parts of the business work, and what people in those teams care about.

You learn things that make you a better manager and leader. You learn things that improve your judgement. You are building your network and extra team. You become more valuable.

3. Your career benefits

I wouldn’t say that this is the main reason to be a mentor, but you do get several career benefits. People who are seen as mentors are granted higher credibility and are seen as higher performers.

You can volunteer with your peers or even your bosses peers to be a mentor for someone in their organizations. So you get positive visibility by being more connected, meeting more leaders, and offering to add value.

4. You feel like you did something that matters

Many weeks or even months can go by in an executive job that leave you wondering, “What did I accomplish?”

So often, executives tell me that they wish their job had more meaning. So if dry, corporate crap is making you feel like a cog in a heartless machine, help someone else. You will feel something!

5. Everyone benefits

I love to think that if the many thousands of people who read this blog, all mentored one additional person, that more than a few truly great things would come of it, and something in the world would be at least a little better for many more thousands of people.

If you build mentoring into your team culture and values — that everyone should be a mentor to at least one person inside or outside the company — your business will benefit.

There is really no downside.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life.