Mentoring Can Buy Happiness

December 31, 2013 No Comments by Travis Jones

Mentoring Can Buy Happiness Several weeks ago we posted a piece that summarized research arguing contrary to the adage, “money can’t buy happiness.” Through several experiments and a growing body of literature, there is now some proof that people who give more generously financially, are happier in the end because of it. But is the same true for people who give of their time, talents, and expertise, and not just out of their pockets?

Mentoring in organizations is nothing new, and its positive effects on mentee’s career development is well documented. In fact, most definitions of mentoring highlight that the intended purpose of mentoring is to benefit the person on the receiving end. While true, there mentors have just as much to gain from a mentoring relationship as their protégés. The research shows that mentors have higher levels of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, career success and lower turnover than their non-mentoring colleagues. This suggests that the same is true with how we spend our time as how we spend our dollars; money, and in this case, time and expertise, can buy happiness, as long as you’re spending it on others.

Many proponents suggest replacing the title “mentor” with “sponsor” to distinguish the type of relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Advocates of sponsoring programs argue that the benefits for the sponsor, or mentor, should be explicitly communicated as an essential function of the relationship. The protégé, in order to get the most out of their sponsorship, should be motivated to “make their boss look good” with their performance. In turn, sponsors will be motivated to fully devote themselves to the development of protégés knowing that their future success can have benefits for their career as well.

This may strike some as too Machiavellian, especially in the context of relationships that are normally thought of as altruistic and good natured, but mentor relationships that are beneficial for both parties, are more successful and nurturing in the end. As Dan Ardi, in an article arguing for the benefits of mutual mentorships, summarizes, “For newer hires, working with a more senior executive is an amazing opportunity to tap that person’s experience and to share one’s own dreams of what he or she wants to accomplish. Meanwhile, sponsors win by tapping into the energy of newer hires and also by borrowing their eyes to get a different vantage point from within the organization.”

As you enter the New Year, I want to encourage you to think about all of the people who have poured into your professional life in the past as motivation to look for your own opportunities to pass the mentoring torch. If you are currently mentoring, you know that it is better to give than to receive, especially when you are giving of yourself, your time, and your experiences. The icing on the cake of mentoring is that you will be gaining greater career benefits from doing something that will do the same for others. If you take your happiness and success seriously, look for someone to mentor.

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