Why mentoring matters
It’s always okay to ask for help.
Unfortunately, it seems not everyone has that attitude at work. According to a 2019 survey, two-thirds of American workers wanted a mentor, but just one-third actually had one. This figure is only likely to have risen as professionals adapt to new ways of working post-pandemic.
Perhaps they feel like they’re too busy. Or maybe they’re worried that their potential mentors will be. Either way, many are muddling through their careers without a helping hand to guide them.
That’s why employers could and should take a proactive role in encouraging professionals to sign up for mentoring. It can help employees develop the skills they need to excel in their careers while building a talented team of young professionals who feel engaged in their roles.
I know from personal experience how valuable mentoring can be.
Here's how my mentors helped me get to where I am today.
A career catalyst
I met my first mentor about 12 years ago.
I was a young senior marketing manager and she was one of the top executives at my company , an approachable female leader within the organization, and I wanted to emulate her.
I had been lucky enough to have managers who could help me out on the technical side of my job, but I was always on the lookout for advice in other areas. How could I take my career to the next level? What skills would I need to become a leader? How could I balance work life with family life?
At first, I’d fire those kinds of questions her way whenever I got the chance, before eventually asking her to be my mentor on a formal basis. Taking that step was important. It turned what was essentially a series of small favors into an ongoing mentor relationship.
This didn’t mean our mentoring sessions had to be formal. It could be a phone call at the end of the work day, a quick email to pass on handy resources, even a casual chat over a beer as we got to know each other better. Whatever our interactions were, it was important to make them happen regularly.
Mentors are usually busy people so I was always conscious to make the most of our sessions by asking the right questions and coming prepared with potential solutions to bounce off of them. The words of wisdom I received in return helped propel my career forwards:
Navigating challenging situations
When I’d just been promoted to CMO, I found the pressure of making big decisions and managing different personalities overwhelming at times. After I explained the situation to my mentors, they gave me tips I’d never even considered. Getting through to co-workers, overcoming language barriers, taking a data-driven approach to problems – the list goes on.
Offering a valuable sounding board
When work life gets tough, it’s so reassuring to have someone you can talk to about it. If I was struggling with burnout or needed to get my head straight about something bothering me, my mentors were just a phone call away. They can offer a fresh perspective and help you avoid taking stress back home with you.
Helping with the confidence to progress
At some point, most of us will set our sights on promotion and, in those moments, I’ve always looked to my mentors for a second opinion. They’ll tell you honestly if it’s the right move, if they think you’re ready or not and the steps you can take to get there. They can also help you find the motivation and confidence you need to raise your hand for a new opportunity.
Beyond the numbers
Today, I’m a passionate advocate for professional mentoring. I’ve even taken on some mentees of my own.
The benefits are clear. Those who receive mentoring are 49% less likely to leave than those who don’t. Research shows they’re also five times likely to be promoted. That might explain why companies with mentoring programs are 18 percent more profitable on average than those without.
But the positive impact that mentoring programs can have on individuals stretches far beyond these figures.
When I started with one of my mentees, I could see he was a bright spark but he had very low self-confidence. Our mentoring sessions pushed him to develop his skills and helped him realize his potential. One year later, he was giving presentations, leading projects of his own and getting shining feedback from senior leadership.
Investing some time in this candidate helped him grow as a professional, with the company gaining a valuable asset in the process. Multiply examples like this through a mentoring program, and organizations can build a confident, engaged team ready to take on whatever challenge comes their way.
Intrinsically, having someone to look up to helps us push ourselves to excel and repay the trust mentors have placed in us. The rest, as they say, is in the numbers.
Lindsey Ruth is Global Head of Marketing for LHH’s Career Transition, Mobility and Leadership Development businesses. She has over 15 years of experience in Marketing and Branding for HR Solutions firms.
Companies with mentoring programs had profits that were 18% higher than average (Forbes).