Using your experience to mentor others can be very rewarding

When I left a previous job, two things happened that made me feel good about the work I’d done there, even though I’d only been there a relatively short period of time.

Firstly, two people who worked for me in my client service team gave me a gift of a mug. On one side was a picture of the two of them with sad faces and the message ‘We’ll miss you’, and on the other side was a picture of the two of them with happy faces and the message ‘Good luck Rob’.

It was a lovely thought and in conversations with the pair of them on my final day it was clear that they were going to miss my calmness in the chaos of a busy, talented digital agency. They were going to miss my ability to put things into perspective for them so they could see the wood for the trees. They were going to miss my encouragement to put themselves out there and see what they could do. They would miss my experienced head supporting their enthusiastic youth.

Secondly, as I was departing my leaving drinks, a senior member of the agency team pulled me aside after seeing the tears from the two team members mentioned above and said ‘You see those two. You have a talent for guiding people. It’s rare. Keep doing it.” At the time I thanked them for what I assumed was Sauvignon Blanc fuelled gushiness, but I now know she meant it because I’ve seen it again in subsequent roles.

It’s this feeling of being able to support others in achieving their potential that has got me thinking about becoming a mentor.

I’ve reached the age where I’ve now got twenty plus years of work experience. I’ve sat through lots of meetings. I’ve worked with hundreds of people. I’ve helped deliver projects for small businesses with just a handful of employees through to multi-national brands with teams around the world. I’ve hired people, fired people, trained people, sold to people. I’ve been in businesses that have lost a third of their customers overnight and ones that have been bought out by international competitors. All this experience is great for me and for whoever I’m currently working with, but there’s probably a whole host of others who could benefit from some of it.

Can you think of someone who has mentored you in your career, whether explicitly or not? It could be a former boss who took you under their wing and let you see some of the thought processes that they were going through so you had more of an understanding. It could be a customer who trusted you so much with their business that you could have conversations about all aspects of business. It could be a parent who you can turn to with anything and they’ll not judge and just give sage advice.

Do you think any of these people had any special mentoring training? The chances are they didn’t. All they’re doing is looking back on the lessons learned throughout their life and sharing this valuable information to you at at time you needed it.

It is a difficult thing to say to yourself (unless you’re one of those super confident individuals) that you can definitely help someone else achieve their goals as it requires you to acknowledge your own skills and abilities, and it requires you to say to yourself that you’ve got something to say that others should hear.

It turns out I’ve been unofficially mentoring for a while, which is why my former colleagues give me things like mugs with photos on them, and I’m starting to go down the route of doing the role officially. I’ve no idea where it will lead, but I’m expecting to have some interesting conversations and am hoping that others will get to make the most of the mistakes (and successes) I’ve made in my life.

Officially becoming a mentor is just the acknowledgement that you’re open to supporting others achieve their goals and widening your base of people whom you can support, from just your friends and colleagues to include another group, whether it be local young entrepreneurs or school children in search of career advise.

It doesn’t need to take up much of your time. It can do it alongside your day job, and some times even do it online when it suits you, rather than needing to meet people in person. There are options.

Can you become a mentor?

Note: I’m starting my mentoring journey with www.kentfoundation.org and www.brightside.org.uk

Written by

Helping people kick start their product management career at gettingstartedinproduct.com * Product person at Watchfinder

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