Becoming a mentor is a great way to give back while also continuing your own growth and learning. However, there are many myths that might cause you to think twice before applying to join a mentoring program as a mentor. From fears that you aren’t experienced enough to concerns that it will take up too much of your time, we’re debunking five of the most common myths about mentoring.
You need to have mentoring experience
One of the biggest myths about mentoring is that you already need to have mentoring experience to become a mentor. However, that’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. There are many ways to gain the skills you need to be a good mentor. From informally advising a friend on their career path or helping a junior colleague to boost their confidence and develop their skills, you’ve probably already have some experience with the mentoring core competencies of active listening, providing feedback, problem solving, and so on. Joining a mentoring program that supports you with additional learning and development opportunities is a great place to begin and grow as a mentor.
It’s a big time commitment
A little goes a long way when it comes to mentoring. One of the biggest concerns people have when it comes to mentoring is whether they will have the time available to support a mentee. Building a solid mentoring relationship takes time, which is why we recommend working with the same mentee for six months, but the monthly commitment is quite small. At Femme Palette, we ask mentors to dedicate 12 hours of their time to mentoring over the course of a six month period—that’s only two hours per month of your time but it can have a big impact for your mentee. Additionally, mentoring within a formal program structure makes it easier to set boundaries and expectations, making sure that both you and the mentee get the most out of working together while also respecting each other’s time.
You need to be at the top of the career ladder
Another common myth is that you have to have a ton of experience in order to be a good mentor. Mentees can benefit from mentorship at any stage of their career, which often comes with different needs from a mentor. A mentee who is just starting out, for example, may prefer to work with a mentor who has just a few more years of experience than them as they might be able to better relate to the challenges they’re experiencing having recently gone through them themself. Also, mentors who are very advanced in their careers might feel too far removed from such topics. Of course, some mentees will benefit most from working with mentors in senior positions, but decades of experience is not a requirement to be a great mentor.
It’s just about sharing your experience
While sharing your experience is important, it’s only one piece of the mentoring puzzle. Mentoring also involves listening to your mentee, understanding their needs, sharing resources, and many other aspects that will help guide them toward their goals. Sharing your experience is most impactful when it can be tied to the bigger picture. Your mentee probably won’t gain a lot by listening to a monologue about your professional life, but sharing examples of what worked and didn’t for you can be a valuable learning opportunity for the mentee and inspire them to take a similar or different approach.
You need to be older than your mentee
Mentoring often conjures up images of someone older working with someone younger but age is just a number. Amid the ‘Great Resignation’, many people with years of experience behind them are looking to explore new opportunities so you may have the opportunity to mentor someone older than you but with less experience in your particular field. Reverse mentoring—when a junior professional mentors someone more senior—is also gaining popularity. This is a great way for experienced professionals to gain a new perspective or learn a new skill where someone from a different generation might be more savvy (navigating TikTok, for example).