The selfish side of mentoring
I drove past a law office near my house the other day and saw they had added a new name to the sign.
It was a name I thought I recognized, so I Googled it and then remembered…it was someone I had worked with years ago, someone I had hired for his first real job. I had helped him to learn the “basics” and had seen he had potential.
I was a newspaper editor at the time, and he was the sports writer I hired right out of college to cover high school football and basketball. His background wasn’t in journalism, but he had an interest in writing and in sports and just needed a chance. I saw that and hired him. (I like to think it wasn’t just because the pay for the job was too little to attract an experienced candidate.)
A couple years later he asked me to write a letter of recommendation for his law school application, which I was happy to do. It isn’t a straight line between being a small-town sports writer and becoming an attorney, but who can predict what directions any of our lives might take? It’s a shame we lose touch.
The point of the story is this: I was actually quite proud to see that new name on the sign at the law office. I like to think I had some little amount to do with that unseasoned sports writer evolving into a successful attorney worthy of having a sign repainted. I can feel proud because I gave him a chance, and because I served as his mentor.
I have hired many people over the years for their first jobs, and have a mostly positive record of identifying untapped potential in people and then working to bring it out. I have worked with many people in various employment situations and environments and have often felt the pride of watching someone else grow in their confidence and job skills. I have often felt the satisfaction of helping and guiding them.
Serving as a mentor doesn’t show up in many job descriptions, but it should. Mentoring others to learn and grow in their careers is one of the most rewarding aspects of professional life, and one that often goes unheralded.
We should each take the time to guide someone in their career development, to be a no-nonsense sounding board and answer-guy, to encourage them to reach new heights. When you invest in someone else’s success, it becomes your own success, too. And there are abundant rewards to be gained watching someone succeed after you have “invested” in them.
Furthermore, there is always more we can learn and always someone around who can guide us. Just ask. Find a mentor.
And my advice is simple to anyone who has never experienced the rewards of helping someone else succeed: Be one.
Larry Anderson is editor of Go Pro. He can be reached at email@example.com.