This month, January 2022, is the 20th anniversary of the first National Mentoring Month, which celebrates the power of relationships to encourage personal, academic, and professional growth.

Growth feels particularly relevant right now, as the pandemic has encouraged people to re-evaluate their goals, resulting in unprecedented job hopping. If you’re taking stock of your professional development, or if you’re a business owner seeking talent and clients, then consider mentorships.

Coaching others is hugely beneficial for students, employees, small business owners and corporate employees. Recognizing this, many IBMers mentor others. The biggest reward may just be the satisfaction that it brings. In this two-part series, we show how these relationships can change livesIn part one, we talked about the benefits to students and entrepreneurs. Now, let’s focus on  how mentors can be helpful to peers and colleagues, as well as to aspiring professionals seeking new job roles:

Don’t Forget Colleagues

While it’s intuitive that mentors can be helpful in advancing one’s career — 76% of people believe that mentors are important, according to a survey cited on — only 37% of professionals have a mentor, found a survey by Olivet Nazarene University. Seeing is believing: 97% of proteges believe their mentor relationship is valuable.

For good reason, too. A five-year study of 1,000 employees by Gartner found that mentees are promoted five times more often than those not in a mentoring relationship. Retention rates were higher for both mentees and mentors than those who don’t participate in such a program. Further, mentees are five times more likely to enjoy salary increases.

Sunanda Saxena, an IBMer who has mentored more than 20 high schoolers, aspiring professionals and junior colleagues, knows how important mentor relationships are. She grew up in India and experienced first-hand the power of education and advocacy to fight adversity related to gender, poverty, and discrimination. She believes that bottom-up change, starting with education, can improve female representation, especially in the C-Suite. Sunanda has been honored by organizations, such as the PowHERful Foundation, for her work and dedication to mentoring, coaching and advocacy of young women in STEM fields.

Her approach is focused and systematic, co-creating action plans and prospective milestones with each of her proteges. She also asks that her proteges “pay it forward” by mentoring other women when they, themselves, have achieved success. Her work has created opportunities for many talented women — including an IBMer whose formative years were marked by displacement that left her family without a house or home.

Explain How Their Skills Translate

Good mentors like Sunanda don’t limit themselves to just people within their company or with similar backgrounds. For example, IBMers like Paul Bastide enjoy working with former service members transitioning to the private sector. He has been introduced to many vets by American Corporate Partners. 

Paul coaches his proteges to better brand and market themselves, network more effectively, identify worthwhile job openings, interview more comfortably, and explain how their skills translate to the private sector. He advises them to showcase their excellent work ethic as well as their superior work ethic and collaboration talents. He reminds them that they offer maturity and self-discipline that hires fresh out of college often don’t yet have.

Speak Their Language

IBMer Robert Loredo also works with many vets. He wasn’t always an overachieving IBM computer scientist with patents and the author of a groundbreaking textbook on quantum computing. In fact, he was a high school dropout who mowed lawns until a mentor found that his musical talents translated into keen math skills. He was persuaded to return to school.

Robert reminds vets that they had to prepare meticulously for military campaigns. They undertook calculated risks, learned and adapted. These are precisely the qualities needed in the private sector, too. They just need to appropriately frame these qualities to employers.

Robert’s email sign-off offers a maxim from Mahatma Gandhi that pacifists and military vets alike would appreciate: “A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have but how many leaders you create.”

This mantra might be readily echoed by mentors and proteges alike.

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