The Power of Having and Being a Mentor
16 January 2019
Fresh-faced and a little naïve to the corporate world, I vividly remember the first “real job” I had after finishing my ballet career. I was working in an administrative role for a real estate agency and was keen to learn the ropes and make the most of the opportunity.
A year or so into working for the company a colleague, Rochelle Roberts, was promoted and became my direct manager. Ambitious but always approachable, I found it easy to confide in her, and would often seek her out for advice when I was struggling with a problem or decision at work.
Over time our friendship grew, and many years later I left the real estate industry for a new career. However, my friendship with Rochelle remained and to this day she continues to be a valuable mentor in my life. I still turn to her when I am presented with a challenge and need help looking at a situation calmly and objectively. She helps me get through difficult times (both personally and professionally) and offers a new perspective on how best to approach challenges and opportunities.
I sat down with Rochelle, now Operations Manager at Hayman Partners, to find out what it’s like to be a mentor, and how mentoring has also been valuable in her life.
From Mentee to Mentor
After I became Fiona’s manager and our relationship progressed, I think Fiona saw in me someone she could learn from, and I saw in her someone with so much potential and a similar view to my own.
She wanted exposure to different thoughts and ideas that could challenge her initial perception and help her see the whole picture more clearly.
As Fiona progressed through her career I was there for her on the good and bad days and took time to talk about any challenges she was facing – be it personal or professional. Although we try hard to keep them separate, our personal life will always impact our professional life. So I’ve found that mentoring is not just about someone’s day…it’s about someone’s life, and where they see themselves in the future.
I’ve had two amazing women as mentors in my life and gained so much from both. As soon as I met them I knew I could learn from them, and I think they saw in me someone they could help develop and grow.
I really believe that mentoring is such a valuable tool because it helps us make our industries better for future generations, and is an opportunity to leave a legacy. Watching people grow is one of my favourite things because it’s ever-evolving. We’re taught, so we teach, and those people go on to teach others.
Sometimes being a mentor means putting your mentee’s needs ahead of your immediate business needs, and encouraging them to take a new step or move in a completely different direction. This has happened to me both as a mentor and a mentee – involving honest conversations about what is the right choice for that person moving forward.
You don’t just wake up with a career, you have to grow through difficult times. And the mentor-mentee relationship is invaluable in that you have someone you can trust with your vulnerabilities, help you challenge your self-doubt, guide you in developing personally and professionally, and keep you accountable and on-track.
What the Experts Say
This is mine & Rochelle’s story, however, there are countless people – and organisations – that can attest to the power of finding a mentor, being a mentor, and facilitating a mentoring program.
For example, in a five year study of 1000 employees, research firm Gartner found:
- 25% of employees enrolled in a mentor program improved their salary, compared to 5% of those who didn’t enrol
- Mentees are promoted 5 x more than those not in a mentoring program
- Retention rates for mentees and mentors were 22% and 20% higher respectively than those not in a mentoring program
And while these statistics only help to quantify the benefits, experts tell us that there are countless qualitative benefits to mentoring. These include a positive impact on wellbeing, personal development, financial status, and professional development for the mentee and mentor, and improved morale, greater leadership skills, and more success in retaining and developing high performers for the organisation.
How to Find a Mentor
If you’re keen to find a mentor in your life, here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Actively seek out people you feel can teach or guide you
- If it’s difficult to find someone, expand your circle so you can meet new people
- When you find someone, ask them to join you for a coffee and a chat
- Let the relationship evolve naturally
- Make a point to meet once or twice a month
- If it doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to walk away and try again
Most importantly, seek out mentors who have the same values as you do. Make sure you are true to who you are, it is important that you and your mentors personal and professional values align. You want to be able to be 100% honest with them and 100% open to their feedback. Feeling comfortable enough to fully open up and not hold anything back with them is the key to building a strong and rewarding relationship.