Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Bob Dylan and Quincy Jones owe their success stories to a shared experience – all of them had mentors to guide them in their careers.
It’s easy to think of such people as being “self-made”.
To a degree, they were, but none of them, talented as they each are, could say for sure that the same success they have enjoyed would exist without the guidance from someone who had been there before them.
Why are mentors so important?
Mentors are invaluable, as they push us to see our latent potential, and encourage us to unleash our talents and capabilities to the fullest.
What’s more, they offer us glimpses into their past experiences, so that we may avoid the pitfalls they’ve encountered along the way.
That doesn’t mean that our journey will be plain sailing. However, having someone to show us how to side-step common mistakes certainly makes the path ahead much smoother.
Mentors also provide us with a solid sounding board, off which we are able to bounce ideas. They also help us to navigate our struggles and frustrations, and at the same time, fuel the fires of our curiosity and passion.
When we have someone beside us who has travelled a similar path to the one we are on, it’s like having our own personal library at hand whenever we need a quick reference point to help us overcome obstacles.
The actor Will Smith, once alluded to the importance of mentors when he talked about reading (mentors may also come in book form).
Smith said, “There have been gazillions of people that have lived before all of us. There’s no new problem you could have – with your parents, with school, with a bully. There’s no new problem that someone hasn’t already had…”
They are a necessity, not a luxury
In these increasingly competitive times, mentors can become the whetstone (sharpening stone) that gives us the edge over the competition.
They are the ones who offer us the inside track, hone our critical thinking skills and tackle challenges head-on, ensuring that we are well-equipped for the job that lies ahead.
Most importantly, mentors help us to build beyond who we are, and to see the things we are capable of.
The power of mentoring is perhaps summed up best by Winfrey, who said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
As many successful people know, hope is a mighty force that can lead us to our greatest achievements and build a powerful legacy.
3 benefits of mentoring
Helps people to focus and take charge of their career
How many drivers learn to drive without an instructor? How many pianists are self-taught to Grade 8 level?
While it’s not impossible to learn these skills without instruction, it’s much more beneficial to be shown the ropes by someone who’s already been there.
For a start, fewer mistakes are made, and obstacles are easier to overcome when someone who has travelled the same path shows us how it’s done.
We take instruction in so many areas of our lives – it makes sense that we should give our careers the same level of consideration, given how important it is to us.
Mentoring improves networking
A mentor will inevitably introduce their mentee to acquaintances who will be relevant and useful in their journey of development and growth.
A vital part of career success is the relationships we are able to build, and a resourceful mentor will likely have cultivated a wide network of connections within their industry.
Mentees who are introduced to other figures in their field can only stand to gain from the additional pearls of wisdom.
Builds confidence and interpersonal skills
Interacting with others and establishing relationships naturally develops communication and interpersonal skills.
With “soft skills” said to be lacking in fresh graduates and young professionals, this is one of the key benefits that come with having a mentor.
Besides the interactions with others, mentors tend to routinely nudge mentees out of their comfort zones, which helps to build confidence quickly as new challenges are tackled.
Sandy has been blessed to have found a few mentors – in person and in book form – that have made a considerable impact on his life, mainly through the tendency to ask more questions than they answered. To connect with Sandy, you can follow him on Twitter @RealSClarke. How was your mentoring experience like? Were you a mentor for someone, or were you the one being mentored? Share your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.