What Do Mentors Have to Gain? Plenty.

Use lessons learned from mentoring up-and-coming project professionals to move your career forward.

13 November 2012

Like many established professionals, Madhu Fernando, PhD, PMP, started mentoring because she enjoyed helping younger project professionals get ahead.

But mentors can pick up some career benefits, too.

Professionals serving as mentors earned about US$25,075 more between 2008 and 2010 than their counterparts who did not mentor, according to a June 2012 study by Catalyst, a female business advocacy group.

Yet the rewards of mentoring extend far beyond pay. For mentors, fostering younger talent can lead to greater visibility in their organization, more opportunities for self-improvement and even insights into the future of the profession.

Help Others, Help Yourself

Now director and CEO at Innova Strategies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dr. Fernando sees mentoring as building a better community of practitioners. By sharing her expertise, she helps her profession grow within her network and country. “I mentored 90 percent of my competitors,” she says. “So they know my teaching methods, my strengths and weaknesses. I continuously learn and improve to stay competitive in the market I have created.”

When mentors show less-experienced practitioners how to better align projects with business goals and expectations, the resulting increase in effectiveness and improved project execution also reflects well on both people, says Vijaya Avula, PMP, global program manager, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), London, England. “This in turn enhances the peer-group relations, communications and more,” he says.

The opportunity for self-reflection is another beneficial byproduct of guiding junior practitioners, according to Josh Nankivel, PMP, project manager and senior systems engineer, Landsat Data Continuity Mission, Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“Sometimes when I am giving advice on a particular topic, I discover that I'm not really doing what I'm preaching, at least not 100 percent,” he says. “Helping people through their problems helps me stay on top of my game.” 

Mentors also become stronger and more creative by collaborating with mentees. That can be a huge benefit in the ever-changing project landscape and new economy, says Mr. Avula, a current director of professional development for PMI’s United Kingdom Chapter.

And as mentors climb up the corporate ladder, mentees can offer them an “in the trenches” perspective.

“I’m more at arm’s length from daily project management now,” says Brian Grafsgaard, PMP, PgMP, director professional services, Quality Business Solutions (QBS), Minnetonka, Minnesota, USA. “My mentees often provide advice at the project management level, which benefits us both through the discussion.”

Those “newbies” will eventually stake out their own ground in the profession, too.

“Mentoring has an exponential effect. My mentees now mentor others,” says Mr. Grafsgaard. “You never know whose life you’re going to touch.”

At the end of the day, the most effective mentors tend to be the ones that focus on mentoring as a way to impact another person’s career, not their own.

“Don’t go into the relationship expecting it to benefit your career,” Mr. Grafsgaard says. “But I’ve always grown from my mentoring experiences as a result and learned about situations that I haven’t faced yet. Mentor for the right reasons and don’t be afraid to leverage your learning.”

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