Seven reasons why you can be a mentor when you’re not an executive
Have you ever thought about being a mentor but then talked yourself out of it for a reason like I’m too young, I just started this career, or I don’t know everything yet. Well two experts in diversity and mentorship might just have to disagree with you. Tosin Ajayi, who does BIG Things at MongoDB, and Janice Omadeke agree that it is so important to have diversity in your mentors-- so, become a mentor before 25 or to someone outside of your field.
Without further ado, here is why you can be a mentor:
1. Age is just a number: “No age is too old or too young to be a mentor.”
It might feel like you’re not the right age to help someone who has just started their career. But experience, whether it be brand new or decades old, is always helpful. Diversity of experience leads to diversity of thought. This will lead you to be a mentor who gives your mentee skills to become a well rounded thinker, no matter how many times you have fully rotated around the sun.
2. Soft skills count for a lot: “The biggest thing I took away from my mentor was forming bonds with people, understanding your strengths, understanding where people can compliment you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Those are soft skills that really take you a long way.”
At the time of finding a mentor, many employees have already attended college or began their careers. They know the technical skills. Don’t feel like you need to have the exact same skill set. In fact, it would help more to teach the qualities that you are proficient at over what they can learn in the classroom. If you’re in PR, don’t be scared to take a graphic designer as a mentee. Because your skill set doesn’t directly overlap with theirs, you'll broaden their career development scope.
3. The more the merrier: “The mentors that I have had in my life are from all over the board because there are several things that you can learn from everyone else.”
The more people that we have to learn from the better. Having multiple mentors allows a mentee to bounce their ideas off of totally different individuals. So, if someone already has a mentor, don’t let that stop you from mentoring them as well.
4. netWORKing: “At the end it really comes down to networking. One of the strongest assets I think a person can generate is being extremely engaged and interested in your community and building a very strong network.”
Learning how to build a network is one of the most valuable things to do in order to further your career. If you have perfected this skill, share it! And if not, having a mentee is another addition to your network. When you are not great at a skill, trying to teach it is one of the best ways to learn. You will find mutual benefit and both develop a new skill and building your networks together.
5. Equal partners: “I am a mentor to someone that started their career the same time as I did. We co-mentor each other, as his experiences and his past is fairly different than mine. Whenever I have something I feel he can provide me guidance on, I take his viewpoint and experiences as mentoring advice.”
Having an official relationship with a person that you started in your career with will not only help you to become better at your career, but it will help you to learn how to be a mentor.
6. Rule Breakers Unite: “Here is the other thing about mentoring: it is not about gospel, it is not about a pedantic way to follow instructions and asking someone to tell you exactly what to do but it is about taking someone else’s viewpoint, processing it and aligning it with exactly what you want to do.”
Not having step by step instructions allows you to paint your mentor canvas however you’d like. This may seem like a challenge (isn’t coloring in the lines easier) but it makes mentoring a great exercise that increases your ability to teach and work with another person. Take the chance to be creative and you will see great results.
7. Not TOO much pressure: “I take advice and mentorship but I also take it with a grain of salt. It doesn’t mean you take the advice verbatim. You may modify it, amend it, or throw it away all together. It is all about learning from other people’s experiences, not about living other people’s lives.”
This means that even if you give some really horrible advice (which I am sure you wouldn’t), your mentee will learn from it-- at minimum to use their own logic when deciding whether or not to take advice from someone. It also means that you are not responsible for creating a roadmap for your mentee to follow. Your job as a mentor is to help where you can, based on what you have experienced, and hope that it helps your mentee grow just as it helped you grow.
If mentoring is something that you have always wanted to dabble with, do it. Our friend Tosin showed us that anyone who is dedicated, caring, and a willing to help others can be a mentor. Read here to find out more about being a mentor.
Many thanks to Tosin for the interview and tremendous advice.