Being mentored

Over the past weeks I have participated in more than four speed mentoring sessions wherein colleagues have reached out to me for mentorship. At the same time, I have spoken with my mentor on various challenges. And then I am also undergoing reverse mentoring from the millennials! Phew! I seem to be moving in multi directions where mentoring is concerned. I am a mentor and yet, I also need a mentor.

The need for a mentor

Dictionary defines mentor as someone who is an experienced trusted advisor.

A mentee is one who is advised, trained, or counselled by a mentor.

Do you recall joining an organisation and trying to figure your way around? It could be around the new businesses that come your way, the new issues that you have on your plate or it could just be all about navigating the new workplace and trying to build the right connects. For most of us, this can be a frightful situation wherein we struggle to find our own way about. Organisations recognise this and have different versions of support systems that help newbies find their way – a buddy or a ‘dost’ assigned for a couple of weeks who will make you feel comfortable and introduce you to the system, the culture and the people.

But mentorship goes beyond this HR frill. It is about having someone to whom you can confide in and let yourself be vulnerable and open. Vulnerable about things you do not know. Open about new learnings. Honest about failures. Be willing to share your fears of situations not panning out the way you thought they would. Acknowledging about losing the plot somewhere. Exalting in the victories that come your way through your focus and dedication.

When you have someone for the above who can with her/his experience and wisdom nudge you to become better at what you are, you will find yourself soaring to new heights. A mentor is someone who knows when to lead and hold your hand and when to let go of it.

You as a mentor

With the experience you have gathered in your field of communications or public relations or whatever that you are good at, have you thought of mentoring someone? Believe me, it can be a very exhilarating experience, but it comes with a lot a responsibility. When our HR set up speed mentoring sessions very much like speed dating – colleagues could choose a mentor and then have 15 minutes of ‘my’ time with her/his mentor; I found myself speaking with more than four colleagues. The responsibility that this brings along with it has to be handled with care. Colleagues open up with their doubts, fears and/or sometimes just need someone to air their views without being judged. As a mentor you can provide insights gleaned from your journey and share the valuable professional lessons you have picked up along the way. Sometimes, that little nugget of experience sharing is all that is needed. Sometimes, those 15 minutes can turn out to be a stepping stone to a more fulfilling experience for both you and the mentee. 

Reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring is where senior executives are mentored by younger employees on topics mentioned like usage and importance of social media and current trends. This is a way to bring senior employees up to speed in areas that are often second nature of younger employees, whose lives have been more integrated with computers and the web.

Seniors will tell you that they are often reversed mentored by their children and that is so true! Today’s generation is so clued in to the latest technology that we do not really have to go far to be mentored in subjects that sound alien to us. Just look in your family and remove some time to be reversed mentored. And if you are a millennial, I am sure you are already a mentor to someone in your family! I recall getting initiated into social media through my son who is in sync with all kinds of apps and gizmos.

Mentors are around us and so are the mentees. I found my mentor during a train journey. Yours could be sitting right next to you. 

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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