- By John Young
Many successful people credit one or more mentors who made a big difference in helping them achieve early success. So my question for you, if you’re in your 50s or 60s, is: If you’re not mentoring someone, why not? It should be part of your legacy.
A mentor may not be what you think.
Generally, someone who mentors is older, experienced and interested in helping a younger man or woman improve specific skills and develop as a total person over time. When you are a mentor, your relationship with the individual you're supporting is more complex than it is when you're a coach, consultant or adviser; those roles are more task- or skill-oriented and typically involve a shorter timeframe.
Why Should You Mentor?
Mentoring isn’t just useful for the person you’re assisting, it’s great for you in a variety of ways. For one thing, mentoring provides that wonderful feeling you get when you help someone and make a difference in his or her life.
In addition, being a mentor can help your career. You’ll be challenged to stay at the top of your game to provide your charge with up-to-date advice. This will make you even better at what you do and a more valuable employee to your boss.
What’s more, sharing with a younger colleague what you’ve learned and the mistakes you’ve made enables your organization to progress at a faster pace, with greater productivity. A side benefit: Your boss will see that you can work successfully with the next generation of rising stars because you understand the way they think and act.
Mentoring will likely also inspire fresh ideas since you’ll be stepping out of your normal circle of friends and associates.
But mentoring can also be a boon if you’re retired or nearing that stage of your life.
Retirees often feel isolated, crave more social interaction and need ways to stay cognitively challenged. They also want to do things that feel meaningful and help them retain a sense of purpose. Mentoring helps you deal with all of those issues. Studies have shown that the more active you are, the healthier you are, so mentoring at this age can be beneficial physically and mentally.
How Can You Mentor?
There are plenty of ways to become a mentor.
Your employer might have a formal program that matches experienced, senior staffers with younger staffers. (Ask your human resources department.) You could also create an informal mentor relationship — and it needn’t be with a younger colleague.
Some colleges invite alumni to mentor recent graduates through the schools’ alumni association or career services department. There are also many community-based organizations that help foster mentoring relationships, like the Big Brother and Big Sister programs.
Another way to go about finding someone to mentor is to use the website I recently launched, MyMentorAdvisor.com. It specifically targets boomers because of the work experiences and expertise they’ve gained over the past 25 to 30 years and matches them up with young people looking for mentors.
Before I tell you how the site works, let me explain how it came about.
About four years ago, I decided to retire from a 26-year career in surgical device sales and management. For roughly 12 months, I enjoyed my life – spending time with my family, doing things I’d never gotten around to and improving my health. But after a year of relaxing and recharging, I asked myself, “What’s next?" I needed a purpose and wanted to help others.
Thinking about boomer neighbors, friends and acquaintances who were also asking themselves “What’s next?” I realized it would be great if people with years of experience had a website where they could post their expertise and offer to share it with others. MyMentorAdvisor.com was officially launched in April 2013.
To become a MentorAdvisor (cost: $9.95 a month, $25 a quarter or $80 a year), you enter your background information, areas of expertise, contact information and – if you want – your resumé and picture. To confirm your expertise, you must provide recommendations from three people with first-hand knowledge of it. You can also, at your discretion, charge a fee, which may be listed as hourly or negotiable.
Someone looking for a mentor clicks on “Find a Mentor” and can search the site’s listings by category and/or state; there’s no fee to do this.
Once a match has been made, the two people decide how they want to meet and how often. You could mentor someone in person, by phone or through video chats.
Get Started Any Way You Want
Whether you decide to become a mentor through this site or some other way, the key is to take the initiative to start sharing your expertise.
If you’re looking for purpose in your life, want to remain active and healthy and want to contribute to the success of others, find a mentoring opportunity. You’ll be glad you did — and so will the young men or women you assist.