The importance of mentoring through a crisis

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to put a strain on wellbeing, Sonika Sharma explains how Unilever has benefited from mentorship 

The power of mentorship during this pandemic has never been more important, as businesses strive to aid their worker’s personal and professional growth. Multinational companies like Unilever have been releasing several programmes with the sole focus of looking after their employee’s wellbeing; this will allow one to come back stronger and ready to tackle the after-effects of Covid-19. As significant changes have been imposed on work-life balance, the need for a mutually beneficial relationship like that of mentee-mentor is the most valuable asset to attain during these uncertain times.

Here’s why I believe it has become crucial to invest in a relationship with a mentor: 

Putting things into perspective

Currently no one is well-versed in adapting to a world overtaken by a global pandemic, and our work-life balance has been significantly altered. During this time, the challenges we face would benefit from additional support, and so hearing a mentor’s experience or sharing a fresh perspective from a mentee can shine a new light on to different situations.

Through the mutual sharing of experiences, a mentor is able to temporarily step away from professional constraints and offer raw advice on their sector, addressing challenges others may face along the way. Often senior mentors observe their proteges going through the same mistakes or hurdles that they may once have encountered. Therefore, offering to share their experience allows the feel of a trusted partnership.

Similarly, when a mentee shares their experience it enables a better sense of professional and personal growth from themselves. They could have a fresh perspective on particular situations, or wish to understand how and why they struggled to cope at work, both of which are made simpler by sharing their thoughts with their mentor. A key element of this extends to how we look at the stresses or challenges in front of us, and its direct impact on our wellbeing. In essence, if we look after ourselves, we have a better chance of performing to the best of our abilities and mitigate the risk of burning out. 

Opportunity to reflect and improve

The mutual opportunity to reflect and improve is one we often take for granted and omit, claiming we lack time. A mentorship provides this sacred time.

For the mentor, they now have a true chance to look back and reflect on the learnings from their years within a particular career or sector. To be able to share this journey of good and bad experiences allows them to view their professional life in a holistic manner.

For the mentee, the idea that they can approach someone from the same profession but not a part of their company or daily team opens a gateway to confidential sharing on their personal as well as professional goals. Often juniors may lean towards scepticism when actively admitting to what they may not have done correctly, or even what they would have done differently, without the hesitance of being judged by peers. Therefore, a mentorship, even within these remote working times, allows for a safe space to reflect and exchange experience for a mutual beneficiary.

Purpose and meaning

We are no longer striving to work for the sake of it, but often look for something deeper. Having regular conversations with a mentor, either over the phone or on a video call, can give one a sense of grounding in a world that feels very surreal. 

Mentoring sessions, seemingly focused on the professional side of life, don’t always contain light-hearted conversations. But consciously dedicating time to share personal moments with one another can help develop a healthy relationship. The progression of this relationship will aid both parties to delve into their true purpose, both personally and professionally.

A mentor is able to see a top line view of a mentee’s career graph and can help accelerate their growth within their sector. Ultimately, a mentor has the ability to connect their mentee to the right networks, providing they have developed such a relationship over the course of their mentorship.

However, a mentor must understand that someone’s personal goals are often reflected within their professional ambitions. A study by Deloitte found that employees are more satisfied with, and thus loyal to, companies that support both career and life ambitions. A good mentor must have an understanding of all aspects of their mentee’s life; no longer are there rigid lines between these areas. The purely simplistic act of helping someone understand what matters most to them and why binds a true mentor-mentee relationship.

The power of mentorship is clear: people with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster and even experience more work-life satisfaction. I strongly believe the benefit of a mentorship has always been mutual, as the mentor seizes the opportunity to ‘reflect’ about themselves and their craft, while their mentee absorbs the benefits of their experiences. Both parties, through their cultivated relationship, have the opportunity to share experiences, which enables them to keep their wellbeing in check.

As this journey of learning and self-discovery never truly ends, I see the power of mentorship as one small yet significant step in this right direction.

Sonika Sharma is global strategy and communications manager at Unilever