How mentoring could help you fulfil your potential

Having a mentor is often suggested as a way of boosting your ability to succeed in life. But how can it help and how effective is it?

In this article you will learn:

  • The impact of mentoring
  • How mentoring can help young people
  • Why you should consider mentoring someone else

Ask any successful person about their mentor and they’re bound to have a few stories. Even Richard Branson says that he wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without his mentor Sir Freddie Laker. The Virgin Group founder adds: “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. No matter how incredibly smart you think you are, or how brilliant, disruptive or plain off-the-wall, your new concept might be, every start-up team needs at least one good mentor.

“Someone somewhere has already been through what you are convinced nobody else has ever confronted!”

But how could it help you? Here’s three ways:

1. Being mentored reduces stress and burnout

A 2015 study found that mentoring helps to reduce stress and minimise the risk of burnout, and is especially effective for individuals who are vulnerable to extreme stress because they don’t feel capable of handling some job tasks or feel overwhelmed in the work environment.

“More and more employers are recognising that employees feel they are being pushed to their limits and that steps need to be taken to promote their physical and social wellbeing,” Lebena Varghese, a doctoral candidate and lead researcher in the study at Northern Illinois University, said.

“Stress and burnout can be manifested in several different ways and there is no single answer for preventing stress at work. Nevertheless it is possible to offer guidelines on the process of stress prevention in organisations.”

She added: “One way of helping individuals vulnerable to burnout is providing them mentors.”

2. For young people, mentoring can change their behaviour in numerous ways

A study by youth mentoring programme Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, which tracked the experiences of nearly 1,000 children and teenagers over a five-year period, found that those with a mentor are more confident in their academic abilities and less likely to display behavioural problems.

The study found that girls with a mentor were four times less likely to bully, fight, lie or express anger, and two and a half times more likely to be confident in their ability to succeed at school than girls without a mentor. Boys with a mentor were twice as likely to believe that school is fun and that doing well academically is important.

“This ground-breaking research confirms that mentoring changes the trajectory of young lives,” Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, said.

3. Being a mentor can be just as rewarding

Many mentors describe mentoring as a two-way street and more and more mentoring programmes, especially within businesses and workplaces, are reciprocal.

Dessy Tsolova, director at Utelier, mentors other entrepreneurs in the fashion industry through Virgin StartUp. She says: “They learn from me, and I from them. It’s an exchange of skills and knowledge. I learn from them about areas of the business that I am not so involved in - like let’s say Kickstarter campaigns, new ways to grow your social media, new business models that are less of the established route to market.”

Adrian Langford, managing director at Rivermore Finance Group, who also mentors through Virgin StartUp, says that mentoring is about more than giving back. “Scratch below the service and one often discovers that the mentor learns as much about themselves and their own business situations as they do about the entrepreneurs they are mentoring,” he says.


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