I never had a mentor when I was working my way up through the agency ranks, so when someone suggested that I should become one, my initial reaction was to decline. I made the same excuses that I use for avoiding the gym; no time and I don’t have the technique – a classic case of imposter syndrome.
Looking back, I had a subconscious fear of giving the wrong advice and being judged. I thought I wasn’t high profile or experienced enough to be a mentor. It was all in my head but feeling self-conscious is one of the biggest barriers to discovering what could turn out be a mentoring superpower!
To clarify, I’m not claiming that being a mentor makes you a hero (although I love the idea of wearing a cape to my next session), but it does have a positive impact on mental health – for both the mentee and the mentor. And, as many people are still working remotely and are anxious about their futures, the need for a mentor has never been so relevant.
What is a mentor?
Not to be confused with coaching, which addresses specific goals, mentoring is about the longer-term holistic development of a mentee. A mentor looks at the bigger picture by assessing overall strengths and weaknesses, and by helping the mentee to realise their own potential for themselves.
So why is mentoring good for mental health?
It reduces the feeling of isolation
You don’t have to be living alone or working remotely to feel isolated. Not having anyone to open up to can make your working life feel lonely. Having a mentor, a trusted confidante, can make a huge difference. Simply getting a different perspective and encouraged to find your own solution to a problem gives a sense of relief and empowerment.
It helps combat anxiety
Most people experience some level of work-related anxiety, that’s normal. But, add a global pandemic and economic crisis to the mixing pot and anxiety levels can bubble over. It can be hard for people to share their feelings because they’re worried that it will reflect negatively on them, which creates even more anxiety. A mentor helps to get under the skin of the issue; to break it down and tear it apart, before guiding the mentee to find practical ways to move forward.
It boosts confidence
Mentees frequently report an increase in their self-confidence because they feel supported.
The relationship with a mentor gives a mentee a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgement. In turn, they get validation from someone with more experience, who they trust and admire. But it’s not just the mentees that benefit. Mentors also experience a confidence boost – the very act of helping someone else to reach their goals, and overcome hurdles provides a sense of achievement.
A mentor can transform lives but, to do that effectively, you must get past some myths. Here are a few that I overcame:
“I don’t have anything to offer”
Nonsense. You’re a skilled professional that’s being paid to do what you do.
“I don’t have time”
Do what you can. An hour a month is plenty. A mentoring session can happen over a coffee, or a zoom call – whatever works best for you. I’m still too busy for the gym though.
“I’ve never had a mentor, so I can’t be one”
I’m living proof that, that’s not true.
“I cannot relate”
I’m currently mentoring a counsellor with his own practice, an entrepreneur through Virgin StartUp and various people through the PRCA – none of them operate in the sectors that I’m experienced in.
“I am responsible for all of my mentee’s decisions”
Not true. Your role as a mentor is to help the mentee think outside the box and explore all avenues before making ‘their own’ decisions.
“I haven’t reached my full potential”
That’s good. You’re still striving. But, mentoring isn’t about you reaching your potential, it’s about helping others to reach theirs.
“I can save them!”
I love your enthusiasm and how you’ve moved from imposter syndrome to having a saviour complex! But seriously, mentors aren’t superheroes and are not here to save anyone. But, if they use their superpower wisely, it can be transformative for both parties.