According to a study conducted by Gartner on workplace mentoring programmes, it was found that 72 percent of the employees who were mentored were retained by the organisation, with 25 percent of them getting a hike. Those who participated in the mentoring programme were also found to have been promoted five times more than those who didn’t. Another study, by Wharton School Of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, found that mentoring relationships had a positive impact on productivity, engagement and retention of employees.
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With the promise of such miraculous consequences, it is no surprise that every employee is seeking out a mentor. But, there are a few who, however much they may seem to be trying, never manage to find one or never strike a healthy relationship with their mentor. Writing on the subject in the 99U blog, author Ryan Holiday says that more often than not, the fault lies at your end. So if you haven’t found a mentor yet, here’s what you may be doing wrong:
Millennials have the widespread reputation of being brash and projecting a sense of entitlement in their attitudes. So keep all such attitudes in check. Understand that it is not easy to get a successful, busy working professional to agree to spend their time and effort on mentoring you pro bono. So avoid beating around the bush and wasting time. Be clear and direct, not arrogant and brash. Most people can smell flattery from a distance, so avoid those fake compliments. Word your letter honestly and refrain from appearing too desperate as well, as this may mislead them into thinking that you are ‘a lot of work’ and would discourage them to take you on as a mentee.
Your mentor is meant to guide you, using their experience and exposure, to help you deal with a tough work situation, adapt to changes in your work responsibilities or to scale professional heights. They are not therapists. Do not waste your mentor’s time with your personal problems. Sure, your mentor can help you with how to deal with office politics or other sticky situations at work, but it is better to keep personal anxieties and issues off the table.
Sure, seniority equals experience, but that doesn’t mean that only someone older or holding a position higher than you can give you fruitful career advice. It is common to think that your mentor should be someone who has ‘been there and done that’. But remember that peer mentors can be just as effective as these older mentors. Going through similar bad patches at work could mean that they would be able to provide you with a perspective different from yours on how to deal with such problems. Off late, even reverse mentoring is proving to be beneficial for increasing an employee’s productivity by updating his or her skill sets.
One of the first things you need to understand about mentoring is that it is a two-way street. It is as much about your mentor as it is about you. Do not think that all you need to do is be at the receiving end of guidance and wisdom. Think of ways in which you can make the relationship work for and benefit your mentor as well. Maybe, in comparison to their skills, you may not have much to offer. Holiday suggests that, assuming that your mentors would be busier than you are, provide them with articles, news and links that can be of help to them and their work. Offer to help them with new media skills that you may be more efficient at. Be ready to give as much as you get.
Look for someone who can help you build your strengths, lend a hand in areas you are weak at, be ready to clear your doubts and is supportive of your general work ethic. All said, accept that mentoring relationships may not last forever, and be ready to move on and turn to new mentors at different stages in your career.