Whether we recognize them or not, mentorship is all around us, typically from when we’re very young. Many schools run mentorship programs to help kids get on a good path in life, especially if they’re at risk of dropping out.
As we grow older, different mentorship programs follow us through our careers. For example, a writer hoping to publish their first book may enter a competition to be mentored by an already successful novelist. A college student may partner with a member of their alumni. Or a company may run a mentorship program where a new staff member partners with a senior staff member.
Studies show having someone who can offer guidance during your formative years or even when you’re well into your career can benefit you. One 2008 study concluded the effect is especially powerful in professional mentor and mentee relationships. Although having a workplace mentor can help your personal health and career trajectory, your career attitude is most affected. With a mentor, you can see your career in a new light, putting some excitement back into the day-to-day.
What does a mentor do for you?
A mentor isn’t just one thing. They’re someone you can go to when you’re struggling for inspiration. They can answer questions about your career. They’re your advocate, your sounding board, and your colleague.
But one of the best aspects of a mentor is they’re not you. We spend so much of our time in our own heads, staring at the same problem, that eventually we can grow frustrated with what we’re trying to solve.
That can lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace and a lack of growth. Here’s where a mentor comes in. A mentor offers a new perspective, an outside perspective, which can help you navigate your struggles differently.
Why do you need an outside perspective?
To discuss why a mentor’s outside perspective is essential, let’s first look at why you’d want someone not on your marketing team to be a person you look toward for marketing help.
Cross-functional relationships establish a strong foundation for any business. For example, if you’re on the marketing team, you should have a good rapport with your other team members, but you should also make connections with coworkers in other parts of the business for a company to thrive.
Learning from a sales team member will help you understand their challenges, which interconnect with your own. For example, if you as a marketer are not marketing to the right audience, the sales team will have a much more difficult time with acquisitions. Talking to a sales team member and building a relationship with them can help you be more effective at your job.
The same rules apply to a mentorship. Learning from someone who has different experiences and different knowledge than you can help your career blossom because you have the advantage of their guidance. When certain marketing methods fall flat, a mentor can steer you toward trying a new marketing strategy with which they have experience.
Having that outside perspective is incredibly crucial if you’re growing your own company. There have long been debates over whether or not a CEO should come from inside the company or outside. But research indicates the best option is neither. Instead, the CEO should be an inside-outside hybrid. The best CEO is one with knowledge and experience in the company but who isn’t too entrenched in company politics or tradition.
Protecting that separation can be challenging since it’s difficult not to get attached to your company. So having a mentor to guide you while you grow your company — from managing accounts payable to design your brand's logo or identity — can help you see options in a way that hadn’t occurred to you. We often view things as standard if we’ve done them a certain way for a long time. But sometimes, we need a shake-up.
And a mentor can help you streamline processes, reduce costs, and introduce unique strategies to help your company grow.
Outside perspectives can help your personal life too
It’s not just your career that can be better if you utilize a mentor. As you progress in your career, more questions will arise outside of it. For example, what should you do with your retirement savings? How do you balance your family and career? Are you saving enough for your emergency fund? Your mentor can give you tips and tricks from their own experiences on managing things in their own lives.
Your mentor may be able to help you budget better and make sure your money is going to the right place. Or they could give you access to their spreadsheets on how they stay organized.
And as far as maintaining a work/life balance, a mentor can be your self-care advocate, reminding you that there’s more out there than your task list on your computer.
So, do you need a mentor?
It can seem like a hassle to add a mentor to your connections. Between your team members, your boss, and your work friends, it can feel like too many cooks in the kitchen, with everyone giving you advice on where to go next and what to try. But one cook you do need is a mentor. Their advice comes from a place of learned experience.
Having an expert in your pocket is an excellent opportunity to harness your skills. And you’ll impress your company with your ability to look at problems from an outside perspective, thanks to your mentor’s guidance. Of course, staring at your screen for eight hours doesn’t allow you to generate any answers magically. But bouncing ideas off of a mentor can help guide you toward the solutions you’re seeking.