When the master learns from the pupil: career benefits associated with mentoring functions for mentors

Who says that being a mentor is a duty reserved for pro-social and altruist individuals? Why being a mentor seems to be an activity without any beneficial outcomes except for the protégé?

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In recent years the literature has demonstrate a widespread interest in formal mentoring programs by a wide range of organizations like educational institutions, non-profit and professional associations. But the recruitment of motivated mentors is still a substantial challenge for Human Resource Development (HRD) due to the constant efforts and psychological commitment that this role requires. Ghosh and Reio Jr. (2013) conducted a meta-analysis by comparing 13 published studies, 4 dissertations and 1 unpublished study with the purpose of provide a summary of the association between mentoring activity and mentor subjective benefits. The information that they collected can help HRD to better communicate the positive outcomes of mentoring as a career development tool, not only for protégés, but also for the mentors as well.


What is a mentor? And which are his functions?

Probably, if you try to imagine a mentor the first thing that will appear in your mind will be the white goatee of Mr. Miyagi from the movie “Karate Kid”. He is old, wise and he is an expert in his field. But let’s see how the most famous master of karate actually covers every duty of a mentor.

Mr. Miyagi create a relation of trust and mutual respect with his pupil Daniel. He helps him to enhance his sense of competence, and demonstrate his approval and his support even in times of failure. They are friend besides being master and pupil. These aspects are included in the function of psychosocial support that every mentor has to provide to his protégé.

Furthermore, everybody knows the famous sentence “Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax of”, this is a perfect example of a challenging work assignment that help Daniel to improve his abilities; Mr. Miyagi enrolled Daniel in the karate tournament in order to show his skills, and he use his personal experience to transmit important teachings. These is exactly what we call career support function.

Last but not least, Mr.Miyagi shows Daniel how to behave with bullies without using violence, and demonstrate always a strong ethical integrity. In other words he become a model for Daniel. These aspects are included in the role modelling function.

Mr. Miyagi is therefore a really good example to understand what is a mentor and how they behave. Let’s see now why becoming a mentor can be “cool”, even if you are not the best karate master of all time.


Five good reasons to become a mentor

As explained in the previous paragraph, being a mentor implies a lot of tasks and duties, so this role may appear as an effort without compensation. For this reason usually senior workers think that becoming a mentor means having a greenhorn attached to their ankle for the rest of the life. Here five great motivations that will help HRD professionals to create a new opinion about becoming a mentor:

  • First, individuals that cover the role of mentor in their companies are more satisfied and committed to their job than those who are not mentors.
  • Second, providing career mentoring support is associated with better job performance and career success.
  • Third, providing psychosocial mentoring is associated with greater job satisfaction, organizational commitment and career success.
  • Fourth, providing role modelling is linked with higher job satisfaction and job performance.
  • Fifth, the perceived quality of the provided mentorship shows a positive relation to job satisfaction and especially to career success.


How being a mentor pays back

In which way is the provision of different mentoring activities associated with different outcomes for mentors?

Thanks to the functions of career mentoring (including provide information and job related knowledge), mentors have to constantly update their knowledge, which in consequence help them to succeed their own career aims. For this reason this aspect has the strongest association with career success for mentors.

Psychosocial mentoring represent a deeper and more intense aspect of being a mentor. Therefore, it is not surprising that it has the strongest link with mentor’s commitment to their job and organization, because of the emotionally vivid mentoring relationship that they create with their protégés.

Lastly, for role modelling it is conceivable that displaying appropriate behaviors, skills, values and attitudes to their protégés can motivate mentors to enhance their own job performances.


Takeaways for your practice

Becoming a mentor is often seen as an onerous task in terms of physical, emotional and psychological efforts, and most of the time people cannot see how the use of their energy in this activity will pay them back. The findings of Ghosh and Reio have important implications for managers that use (or want to use) formal mentoring programs in their companies and want to motivated their senior workers to became mentors.

  • First, thanks to the information of this article, HRD professionals can recruit mentors for mentoring programs by sharing the benefits of volunteering time in providing career, psychological and role modelling mentoring support. Moreover, if a mentor want to reach a specific career benefit he or she can focus mostly in the corresponding type of mentoring, devoting less energy for the others.
  • Second, if protégés will be aware of the possible benefits for mentors, they will be more inclined to create a reciprocal relationship based on trust and respect rather than a hierarchical one.
  • Third, the identification of the most desired benefits of potential mentors can have implications for the training provided to them and also for the matching of mentors with protégés. For example, if a potential mentor identifies as most desirable outcome an increase in career success, he or she will be especially trained in career support mentoring function. In addition, he/she will be paired with a protégé who needs mostly career support mentoring.

Following this three advices formal mentoring programs will maximize the possible benefits from mentoring relationships, for both mentors and protégés.

And if senior employees are still not convinced that becoming a mentor is a good idea you can always say to consider it as a good opportunity to have their car polished!

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Ghosh, R., & Reio, T. G. (2013). Career benefits associated with mentoring for mentors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83(1), 106-116.

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