How to Be a Valuable Mentor in Your 20s

To be successful in any field, leaders require role models and guidance. Even if you didn’t have a formal mentor/mentee relationship, it’s likely that you took your cues from someone you looked up to. Maybe you emulated the top performer in your office or imitated your supervisor, but if you think about it, how great would it have been when you started your professional career if you’d had someone to not only bounce ideas off of, but someone in addition to your boss who could provide guidance and advice and help you move in the direction of your dreams? That’s a mentor.

Being a mentor is more important than ever, and while it requires commitment, trust, and effort — done correctly, the mentor gets as much out of the relationship as the mentee.

Related: Will You Be My Mentor?

Optimally, you received some training when you started your job, but training is about the “how to” part of a position. Mentoring is much more about coaching and counseling. It’s much more about the qualitative and subjective parts of your job – dealing with frustration, giving constructive criticism, handling disappointment, behaving with humility and compassion, etc.

A mentor affects the professional life of a protégé by fostering insight, identifying needed knowledge, and expanding growth opportunities. This assistance supplements the coaching an individual already receives from his or her supervisor.

Traditionally, the mentoring relationship consists of an experienced executive providing guidance and advice to an associate with less experience. The associate is looking to move up the career ladder, usually by learning from someone who is successful and well-respected.

Can you believe that you are now that well-respected experienced executive? You might think that still being in your twenties, your colleagues couldn’t possibly see you as mentor material.

But on the contrary, younger and less-experienced professionals who are in the shoes you were in a few years back might find someone who is closer in age with fresh experience to be a more relatable and valuable mentor than that exec who is 30 years older and in an entirely different place in life.

These potential mentees are trying to navigate through the same challenges you successfully overcame not all that long ago. You have valuable insights to offer them as a mentor.

Why become a mentor?

Mentoring gives you the extraordinary opportunity to facilitate a protégé’s personal and professional growth by sharing knowledge you learned through your experience. While the primary intent of your mentoring role is to challenge the mentee to think in new and different ways, they are not the only ones gaining from the arrangement.

As a mentor, there are various ways you can benefit as well.

1. Enhance your skills. The experience you gain by mentoring someone can facilitate your own professional growth, making you more of an asset to your organization. Mentoring allows you to strengthen your coaching and leadership skills by working with individuals from different backgrounds and with different personality types. The ability to manage people different from you is a valuable skill, especially as the workplace continues to grow more diverse.

2. Improve your performance. One of your roles as a mentor is to set a good example for your mentee. Knowing that you are responsible for providing appropriate and accurate guidance to him or her motivates you to work harder.

3. Freshen your perspective on your performance. Protégés often ask “Why?,”  such as, “Why do we do things a certain way?” These questions help you take a critical look at how you are leading and what areas you need to adjust for improvement.

4. Develop and retain talent in your organization. Your role as a mentor can contribute to the success of your entire organization. By priming promising employees to become top-performers and by providing them with the challenges, support, and commitment needed to keep them in your organization.

Being the Best Mentor You Can Be

Although mentoring can be a truly rewarding experience, becoming a mentor is a big decision and one that should not to be taken lightly. It takes serious commitment that takes precious time away from other important things – getting a job done, social life, family, etc.

The best mentors:

  • Lead by example
  • Have seasoned experience in their field and are willing to share skills, knowledge, and expertise
  • Have integrity
  • Share similar values
  • Give advice based on experience
  • Listen
  • Have good contacts (a network)
  • Help you learn what they didn’t teach in school – or the practical aspects of your career
  • Help you navigate the politics and bureaucracy
  • Desire to help others succeed
  • Have time and energy to devote to mentoring
  • Have up-to-date knowledge
  • Have a learning attitude
  • Create opportunities and open doors
  • Know your strengths and abilities
  • Want you to succeed
  • Want you to be independent
  • Are continuous learners
  • Communicate hope and optimism
  • Provide guidance and constructive feedback
  • Are respected by colleagues and employees in the organization and the professional community
  • Set and meet ongoing professional goals
  • Value the opinions and initiative of others
  • Motivate others by setting a good example

Mentoring a newer professional can be a rewarding experience, and like most things in life, the more you do it, the better you become at it. If your company doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, talk to your human resources department, and tell them you would be open to such a relationship. In addition, many professional organizations have mentoring programs that could be the perfect fit for your mentoring goals.

By Jacquie O’Rourke
Jacquie O'Rourke

Jacquie O’Rourke is a blogger/content writer for Spitfire Social Media. Having spent most of her professional career in Higher Education and working with college students, she has a particular devotion to helping young professionals succeed. These days, when she’s not writing, Jacquie enjoys thrift shopping, learning everything she can about social media, and spending time with her husband and daughter. Follow her on twitter @JQGold.
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