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How do I provide value as the junior in a mentor relationship?

Started by elecrisity, March 24, 2019, 06:35:44 AM

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Hi Everyone,

As a young professional, I have admired some of the paths that those more senior in my field have taken. I reach out to these individuals, and while they are eager to offer advice and guidance, I feel that I don't have anything to offer in return. As a newer member in my field, I can't offer much in the way of perspective or opportunities. I'm in relationships where I am doing a lot of taking, but not much giving.

As the junior person in a mentor relationship, what can I do to provide value to the mentors that guide me? Is this a pay it forward type of situation, where as I get more senior over the years, I help the newcomers in the way that I was helped?


It's hard to be specific here because I don't know your profession. But as a senior manager type, I can say that the folks that demonstrate the willingness to grow and learn on their own, tend to be able to build the strongest and most worthwhile relationships.

Every profession will have a publication of sorts. Could be a hard print or online magazine, journal with peer reviewed articles, things like that. My advice would be to look into the trade publication for your business. See what the hot topics are out there and read as much as you can about them. Do some online work as well and surround the topic(s) with sound research and thoughtfulness. When you've formed an opinion, approach one of the senior folks you look up to as a mentor.  Make sure you're well conversant in that topic and demonstrate that you've done the work to learn as much as you can. It may take some work and a few tries, but if successful you'll show others that you're willing to put in the work to stay on top of the latest info, and are even looking to further your craft through collaboration with more experienced people. Good luck!


I have mentored students at my alma mater for a few years running. I do it mostly just to feel like I tried to help orient people with practical advice. I don't expect them to offer me much. I think the thing I most value from the guys I've mentored is showing up, being prepared with something to discuss, and making an effort to improve. That's it. The ones that do those things well are honestly a joy to speak with once or twice a month.


Here's the benefits I see as a mentor in a relationship:

I get to know you and your strengths. I might hire you someday, or recommend you to a colleague, or whatever.

You won't always be junior. Perhaps you'll hire me or send me business some day.

You were more recently in school, you've got more time to keep up with trends. Most fields are extremely broad, you'd be surprised how quickly you'll know more about something than your mentors and can teach them.

If you ask smart questions, you guide me into understanding things better. Teaching really is the best way to learn.

I get to talk about myself. Even better, I get to talk about my work to somebody who's interested. As a developer, if I write a really clever algorithm basically nobody in my life cares. Honestly, this is probably the biggest benefit the mentor gets =)


IMO, the best you can do is try to implement the good advice you are receiving as best as you can. Your peers will notice and appreciate that you respect what they've told you. As you gain more experience and knowledge, you should be able to pass that forward.

Another option is to write a heartfelt thank you message to the people who have impacted you the most. I do think most people like to help others out, and showing your appreciation can reveal how much you appreciate what they've shared. Just my 2cents.


Try to make your mentor look good. Sing his or her praises to others in a non-obvious kissing butt way. That is the biggest favor you can provide your mentor in return. It is the best.