Successful career development requires much more than technical and job-related skills. Typically, crafting a successful career requires effective communication and other soft skills, professional relationships and networks, and a career vision.
Many professionals fail to move up the career ladder even while excelling at their jobs because they lack some of these important competencies. However, a mentor can help professionals develop some of these extra-role skills and build key relationships; being a part of a mentoring relationship can be transformational for early career professionals.
Mentoring is a longer-term relationship lasting at least 9 months, typically between more experienced professionals and their mentees. The main purpose of a mentoring relationship is the continual development of the mentee, although there are other benefits.
The mentor acts as a trusted advisor to the mentee, and supports them in developing new skills, navigating political environments, challenging ideas, and encouraging career development. Most professionals who make it to the executive level cite mentoring as an important contributor to their career success.
Mentors contribute to their mentees’ career development in a number of important ways. Here are six key benefits of mentoring on career development:
1. A mentor can be helpful in developing communication skills.
Mentors can act as role models for desired behaviors, which often includes communication skills.
Interaction between the mentor and mentee gives the mentee an opportunity to observe the mentor and adapt some of the effective behaviors. Mentors can also give valuable feedback to mentees on their communication style and effectiveness.
Also read: What is Career Mentoring
2. The benefits of mentoring also include growing mentees' professional network.
Mentors typically have the benefit of more work and leadership experience, which often equates to a wider and deeper network.
Mentors can help new mentees broaden their own network by making introductions and connecting mentees with other individuals who can help the mentee advance in their careers. For example, a mentor can introduce the mentee to their organizational peers. The mentee benefits by getting exposure to higher-ups in the organization that normally would not interact with the mentee.
3. Mentors can help mentees overcome obstacles in their careers.
This is one of the most wonderful benefits of mentoring for the mentees. By discussing problems with their mentors, mentees can problem-solve and work through career issues, whether they are immediate, operational issues, or longer-term problems.
Mentees can tap into the experience of mentors, rather than learning things “the hard way” through trial and error. Mentors can also help mentees avoid problems in the first place by providing advice.
At times, a mentor can even step in and provide tangible support for their mentees, by sponsoring them or recruiting them for new positions. When a mentor sponsors a mentee, they actively advocate for them and their career.
4. Mentors can help their mentees identify developmental objectives.
Often, early career professionals can lack self-awareness, and not have a good understanding of their professional strengths and weaknesses. Mentors can also be helpful in identifying critical skills for potential future roles for the mentee. Mentors can help uncover these professional blind spots, which can help professionals target their developmental efforts.
5. One of the key benefits of mentoring is to develop and refine mentees' leadership philosophy.
As a professional matures, they will need to figure out what kind of leader they will be, and be prepared to face tough ethical choices.
Often, this is done through many situations, large and small, that test the professional’s boundaries. The mentor can act as a sounding board to the mentee, to help them work through ethical dilemmas and other tough situations.
One role of an effective mentor is that of a good listener. While not imposing their own values on the mentee, they can make suggestions, help the mentee think through choices, and ask questions to challenge the mentee’s thinking.
For example, the mentor may help the mentee work through a moral challenge. In this way, the mentor can be instrumental in developing the character of the mentee.
6. Last, but not least, mentors help young professionals develop a broader perspective.
Often, mentors are two organizational levels higher than their mentees (or more). From their organizational vantage point, they “see” much more than their mentees relatively narrow view.
By sharing their perspective, they can help mentees broaden their own perspective, and understand the point of view of different functional or regional areas. Further, mentors can tap into their experience when helping their mentees discuss choices and dilemmas by thinking through the impact of potential actions.
For a professional who wants to advance in their career, developing a meaningful mentoring relationship can be key. While improving technical and job skills is also important, it’s not enough to prepare professionals for an executive role. The benefits of mentoring are worth the investment for career development.