Wherever you are in your profession, you can always learn from the experiences, ideas, and advice of others. I know I wouldn't be in my current position without the wisdom and support I've received from mentors over the years, and I suspect most of my peers would say the same.
But I don't read or hear nearly as much about the value of being a mentor. Can you benefit from the relationship along with your mentee? There's no question in my mind that you can.
Even if you're a C-level executive with a crazy schedule and not a minute to spare, there's plenty to be gained from offering your time, energy, and empathy to an eager, ambitious mentee.
Here are just a few reasons why I strongly suggest you initiate a mentorship and invest in it:
1. Stay connected
There are lots of Millennials at Udemy, but, understandably, they don't always feel comfortable sharing their deepest thoughts, hopes, and fears with the CEO. After all, who really does?
Having a young mentee outside of my employ is a great way for me to keep up with what's on the minds of the newest members of the workforce--who are now also the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. A young mentee may also help leaders shortcut the communications ladder, as they'll provide the unvarnished feedback your own team is hesitant to share.
Mentoring an up-and-coming professional is also a great reminder of your own early-career challenges. While we might vaguely recall incidents from back in the day, it's hard to remember the distinct emotions we felt years ago and what work is like day-to-day for a junior employee.
Having a personal connection with a mentee keeps me grounded. It also helps me empathize with the Millennials and Gen Ys at Udemy and consider how we might want to change the way we operate to meet their needs.
So-called reverse mentoring has even been formalized at some companies to pair Millennials with Baby Boomers to foster better understanding between the generations, which is a benefit to all.
2. A fresh perspective
I'm a strong believer that great ideas can come from anywhere and that we should always be learning. That's why I view mentorships as a two-way street: I listen and give advice, but I also listen and evolve my thinking.
You're not looking to have your mentee comment directly on your business; you're just keeping your ears open to points of view you hadn't considered before.
Maybe your mentee shares a work story that relates to something happening in your own company. At the most basic level, a mentee can expose you to apps, tools, websites, and even pop culture happenings that might have some application for you too.
Generally speaking, it's a good idea to break out of your usual echo chamber of coworkers, business leaders, and industry peers. Taking on a mentee gives you insight into different work environments, personalities, and issues that can spark creativity and innovation.
3. The right thing to do
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: No one can reach their goals all by themselves. Success results from a combination of hard work, grit, and luck.
As a CEO, I feel an obligation to share my good fortune and experience to help others advance their careers and move toward their own dreams. When I think of the mentors who've been instrumental in my success, it inspires me to be the person who makes that kind of difference for someone else.
Moreover, being a mentor just plain feels good. Like the instructors teaching in the Udemy marketplace, I derive personal satisfaction from sharing what I know. Seeing someone else apply my advice to achieve their desired result is rewarding in a way that no business metric or KPI can match.
It's easy to offer yourself up as a mentor through your professional networks, alumni groups, and community activities. So if you haven't already connected with a mentee, my only question is: Why not?