In my recent Forbes post on five ways to close the gender wage gap, I list mentoring as one way to level the playing field. Mentoring others is a way to give back, but it’s also a gift to your own career. If you’ve ever had to explain a concept to someone else who doesn’t know as much about an issue, you’ve had a taste for how informative and transformative that experience can be for you, not just for the person you’re teaching. Mentoring, coaching, or teaching someone forces you to do five things that are incredibly helpful to your professional development:
You distill your thoughts
When you’re able to explain something, you really understand it. Teaching someone a concept or skill forces you to identify all the relevant components. You stop acting by rote and think more deeply about what you’re doing.
You communicate more concisely
When you’re tasked with relaying information so that someone else understands, you have to get to the point. Not only do you have to know something in your head but you have to find a way to share your knowledge.
You reflect on what matters
As you break down the concepts in your head and figure out the best way to share your knowledge with others, you have a chance to reflect on what is most important. What does someone need to know versus the nice, but trivial details? What is a shortcut that you only realized in hindsight that can save others time and energy and/or improve results from the outset? If you are relaying a broad subject like career advice, what do you know now which you wished you knew when you started? These reflective questions are bound to increase your own understanding.
You take a break
When you pause to help others, you give yourself some rest. You switch gears and exercise different skills. Even if you just answer a quick question, you experience a change in pace and subject matter. It’s helpful to mix things up and not get so fixated on what you alone are doing.
You gain a new perspective
When you mentor others, you hear their perspective – what they’re curious about, what they’re confused about, what ideas they have. You are reminded how different perspectives can be, even on a similar topic. You get an opportunity to listen. What you hear may spark an idea or even teach you something.
As we move into the holiday season, don’t forget about the gift of mentoring – for others and for yourself!
No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it. ― Peter F. Drucker