By Dana Watts At first blush, it may seem as though mentees are the only beneficiaries of the WIIT Mentorship Program. And it’s true that mentees stand to gain a lot—everything from help with networking, to practical knowledge about international trade, to advice on professional development. However, WIIT’s mentor program can be equally beneficial to its mentor participants. As a WIIT mentor, you can: 1. Gain a fresh perspective on your own career Mentees want to know what you’re doing in your own career, and how you got there, and what advice you have for them. As you think about these issues you also reflect on your own path so that you can explain it to someone else. Many mentors find this process reinvigorating. 2. Develop and strengthen your leadership style Mentees are often from a different generation than mentors. They also often come from different backgrounds and have different personality types. Mentoring gives you the opportunity to learn how to communicate and connect with someone different than you. This process strengthens your management, coaching, and leadership skills. 3. Deepen your connections to WIIT and the greater international trade community If a mentee asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, you may refer her to someone else you know. This deepens and enhances your connections with the others in the international trade arena. Or, you may choose to go to a WIIT program in which you and your mentee both have an interest. It’s harder to skip a program if someone else is planning to see you there! Once you’re there, you’re likely to bump into others you already know, or meet some new people who work in international trade. 4. Learn about other areas of international trade Whether they are in school or in the workplace, mentees usually have different areas of expertise and interest than WIIT members. Learning about other areas can enhance your understanding of your own area of expertise. 5. Develop tomorrow’s WIIT leaders People who ask for a mentor through the WIIT mentoring program are often new members with limited exposure to WIIT’s programs. Mentoring gives them a personal connection to WIIT and may make them more likely to both stay in WIIT and become WIIT leaders. When I joined WIIT 5 years ago, I asked for a mentor through WIIT’s mentor program. Today, both my mentor and I are still active in WIIT. That’s great for WIIT, you may say, but what’s in it for me? The answer: the stronger WIIT is and the broader its network of members, the more beneficial it is to be a member. Developing leadership pays dividends to the organization itself, which in turn benefits all its members. 6. Be Mentored The exchange of knowledge in a mentor/mentee relationship is not necessarily one sided. Marketing strategy guru Dorie Clark gives a beautiful example of how mentees can inspire and teach mentors in her book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. She tells the story of how an intern asked Emmy-award-winning TV reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan to edit the romance novel the intern was writing. Ryan thought, “If she can write a book, I can write a book.” Ryan is now an award-winning mystery author. In sum, there are many great reasons to serve as a mentor. As for the mentee you will meet, it’s hard to overestimate the impact you could have on her. A mentee from last year’s WIIT mentor program said,
“I have gained a wonderful, insightful, incredibly helpful and kind mentor who has not only helped me succeed in my professional life but has become a friend as well. I am very thankful for the WIIT mentor program. My experience in DC would be far less rich without it.”
Join me in furthering WIIT’s mission to “promote the professional advancement of women in international trade and business” by serving as a mentor this year. To volunteer to serve as a mentor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Sources: Clark, Dorie (2013). Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. Hollister, L. Rose. (n.d.). The Benefits of Being a Mentor. Retrieved from https://www.ache.org/newclub/career/MentorArticles/Benefits.cfm. Benefits of Mentoring. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.michaelpage.com.cn/employer-centre/development-and-retention-advice/benefits-mentoring. What are the Benefits of Mentoring? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.dur.ac.uk/hr/mentoring/mentoringguidelines/mentoringbenefits/. The views expressed by the author(s) of article(s) published in this newsletter are their personal views and should not be interpreted as the views of The Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT) or its individual members. See full disclaimer here.