Updated: Jan 24
Most people think of mentoring as a giving exchange, but it’s really a getting exchange. Here, Bert Thornton and Dr. Sherry Hartnett share ten ways becoming a mentor can benefit you in 2022—and beyond.
The past two years have been tough. Many of us are feeling bogged down, burnt out, and wary of what the future holds. But instead of creeping into 2022 with a sense of dread, what if you bounded into it with optimism and confidence? Bert Thornton and Dr. Sherry Hartnett say there is a way to revitalize your career, your outlook, and your mindset: Resolve to become a mentor in the upcoming year.
"After 40 years of mentoring, I can say it’s a reciprocal relationship in which mentors often learn as much as they teach,” says Bert Thornton, former president and COO of Waffle House, and coauthor along with Dr. Sherry Hartnett of the new book High-Impact Mentoring: A Practical Guide to Creating Value in Other People’s Lives.
“You might be concerned that you just don’t have the bandwidth to add one more role to your already-busy schedule this year, but the ROI of becoming a mentor is unbeatable—and the benefits will last well beyond 2022,” says Thornton.
Dr. Hartnett, who is founding director of the University of West Florida’s Executive Mentor Program, points out that for many high-level mentors, the monthly time commitment is typically no more than an hour of preparation and an hour to meet. Some pairs might choose to meet more often, others less.
If you still aren’t sure whether to make becoming a mentor your New Year’s resolution, read on to discover ten surprising benefits you can expect to receive:
1. Mentoring can reignite your engagement.
As you share your accumulated knowledge with your mentee, you’ll explain why you chose the path you did and reflect on what your career means to you. Especially if you’ve been going through the motions for the past few years, this self-reflection can help you rediscover your enthusiasm for your job and reconnect you with your professional purpose.
2. It can help you hone new skills and broaden your perspective.
Often, mentees keep their mentors up to speed with current tools and technologies (for instance, what apps they’re using for productivity), help them learn to work with those of a different generation or background, and give them new insights into topics like inclusivity and unconscious bias.
3. Mentoring can help you get to know yourself better.
You’ll sometimes need to take a step back and ponder what you really “know.” You’ll confront topics such as the nature of leadership, what success really means, and how to be a better person. This introspection will either reinforce your viewpoint or change it, driving learning and personal growth.
4. You can develop lifelong relationships.
“I still have contact with men and women who sat across the table from me 40 years ago,” shares Thornton. “Through the years, we’ve talked about college, jobs, surviving and thriving in the business world, marriage and kids, finances, and stress. Now we talk about how they are enjoying the fruits of a successful life: a perfect outcome.”
5. It expands your network.
Many of your mentees will go on to work for other organizations. Maybe you will too. You never know how these connections might eventually help you, your company, or your future mentees.
6. It raises your profile in the organization.
In most organizations—especially those that have a formal mentoring program—mentors are considered an influential, successful group of leaders. When you add value to your company by developing mentees, your reputation will benefit.
7. Being a mentor pushes you to always do your best.
“Knowing that your mentee is closely observing how you think, act, tackle challenges, manage conflict, etc. will ensure that you’re not cutting any corners,” points out Dr. Hartnett. “If you give your mentee advice, they need to see you implementing it in your own career as well.”
8. Mentoring feels good.
“To me, true success isn’t as much about wealth or power as it is about adding value—and where better to add value than in another person’s life?” says Thornton. “It’s a privilege to pay my experience forward to deserving, emerging leaders, and I have gained a deep, abiding sense of satisfaction from doing so.”
9. It can give new life to your self-development.
Great leaders consistently consume an impactful list of books, articles, podcasts, websites, videos, etc. If your self-development has fallen by the wayside, you’ll need to kick-start it again if you expect your mentee to invest in themselves in a similar way.
10. Mentoring gives you faith in the future.
“Mentors often report that their opinion of the next generation has improved because they have a better understanding of younger workers’ strengths and potential,” says Dr. Hartnett. “Mentors also say they’ve become more effective leaders because they’ve gained important insights about younger people’s outlook and priorities.”
“When making New Year’s resolutions, many people focus on giving back to others and on implementing positive changes to their relationships, attitude, and behavior,” says Thornton. "Becoming a mentor allows you to do all of those things and will enrich your life for many years to come.”
Dr. Hartnett adds, “And remember, investment in a mentoring relationship is an investment in your own professional success—and especially after the chaos of the past two years, who wouldn’t like that to be the legacy of 2022?”