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Mentoring is a two-way street

By Mary Ann Wagner and Marguerete Luter
October 30, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Two women sit across from each other, deep in discussion. At closer glance, you see the older, more experienced of the two rattling off advice gained from her substantial career, while the younger woman leans forward absorbing everything she can.
This is likely the picture that appears in your mind's eye when you imagine what mentorship means. However, you might be surprised to learn that this doesn't represent the true mission of most mentorship programs and participants. These relationships aren't meant to strictly funnel information in one direction, down from a mentor to a protege -- this relationship is a two-way street.
Here, we'll take a closer look at how most professionals could benefit from finding time to give back through sharing their experiences as a mentor.

Why should I find the time?
In today's business climate, a lot of people have been asked to do a lot more than fulfill the role they were originally hired for. Perhaps they've now taken on some additional responsibilities, so they're really stretched thin. Many would ask, "If I'm being pulled in so many directions for my career, why should I give up some of my time to mentorship?"
As professionals, we spend much of our day providing deliverables to our clients and organizations. Rarely do we get the opportunity to reflect on what we've accomplished and how. Involvement in a mentorship program allows time for us to share that experience with someone else in an effort to help them. It adds another track to our professional lives -- something on an individual, personal level, vs. delivering on a program or a project.
For example, many of the tough assignments we work on require long-term investments where success won't be realized for a while. With mentorship, you might invest one evening a month to meet someone on a more personal level than you would through casual networking -- someone with a different set of experiences -- and leave energized. You can get an immediate sense of gratification when you spend some time to help somebody and get positive feedback. Doesn't it sound like a gee-whiz?


Mary Ann Wagner and Marguerete Luter

Is mentoring right for me?

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