Be a Mentor. Yes, You. Yes, Now.

By Amy Waninger • January 4, 2021

The following article is adapted from Amy C. Waninger’s book, Network Beyond Bias: Making Diversity a Competitive Advantage for Your Career.

There is always someone, somewhere who needs to see a possible future version of themselves. For every person who has made it through school, out of poverty, beyond an illness or addiction, to the other side of bad choices, or into a profession, there are dozens of people who can’t see a path forward. Do you have a mentor or role model? If so, what does that mean for you? If not, consider how might you accelerate on your own path if someone shows you the way.

The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and the less you realize you do know. Wow. That’s a paradox, isn’t it? This tendency of our confidence to be inversely related to our competence is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Imposter syndrome, the fear that everyone will find out you’re still “faking it,” increases with our level of achievement and mastery of a subject. We often devalue the skills we’ve mastered because they’re easy for us. News flash: Everyone didn’t learn what you did the moment you learned it. Spending time with someone who hasn’t learned it yet can be a great reminder of how far you’ve come. Doing so also gives you an opportunity to share your knowledge for someone else’s benefit. Everyone wins.

The more you give, the more you gain. I see it in my life every single day. Sure, there are wildly successful jerks. Just don’t be one of them. Putting good out into the world improves your self-esteem. When you “pay it forward,” other people are drawn to you. All those people you helped will celebrate with you when you make it big. As Dick Parsons said in his 2016 interview with Fortune magazine, “Be the person everyone wants to see succeed.”

“What If I Don’t Know Anything?”

If it’s true that every person you meet knows something you don’t, then the reverse must also be true. Every person you meet doesn’t-know something you know! What have you already accomplished? What skills or knowledge did you gain in the process? Have you taken any classes, read any books, or completed any projects? If so, challenge yourself to impart this knowledge on someone else. No more excuses!

Start simple. Tweet an article to share with your professional network. Read to a grade school class. Or recommend a good book, class, or podcast to a friend. Just like that, you’ve shared some knowledge!

Be (a Little) Selfish

There are 7 billion altruistic reasons to be a mentor: one for each person on the planet. In case you’re not motivated by do-gooderism, I’ve compiled some completely selfish reasons to sign up to be a mentor:

Whether your reasons are selfish or altruistic, someone needs you! Make this the year you expand your influence through new mentoring relationships.

Where Can You Mentor?

  • Grade schools, high schools, colleges, and trade schools
  • Prisons and juvenile detention facilities
  • Formal mentoring organizations
  • Community centers and volunteer programs
  • Your place of worship and other faith-based programs
  • Youth sports organizations

About The Author

Amy C. Waninger, CEO of Lead at Any Level LLC, works with organizations that want to build leadership bench strength for a sustainable competitive advantage. Her book, Network Beyond Bias, is available online and in print.