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Give and Take

The value of a mentoring relationship goes both ways

Give and Take

I spent the first several months of my first job out of law school watching senior partners passing time every afternoon in one associate’s office. These were the same partners who didn’t acknowledge any of the other associates’ existence and certainly weren’t going to leave their offices without a good reason to be wedged in the small, chairless and windowless offices in which we associates were warehoused.

Slightly desperate and as yet unspoken to by any partner, I cornered this associate in the firm’s library to learn the source of his magic attraction: his personal—and the firm’s only—espresso machine. With that answer, my first mentoring relationship was forged.

In any highly competitive and complex business environment, having the guidance of someone who has “been there first” can be one of the keys to a satisfying and sustained professional career. A mentee can gain an insider’s guide to their own industry and a valuable spyglass for navigating their profession.

While the benefits of the mentoring relationship to the mentee are somewhat obvious, what can be often less obvious are the benefits that the relationship can bring to the mentor. However, regardless of whether the mentoring relationship is between two people within an organization, within an industry or based on other commonalities, the benefits are many.

Enhanced Leadership Skills. During the process of providing the mentee with guidance, advice or strategic insight, you are continually enhancing your own leadership skills. Typically, as you aren’t your mentee’s boss, your mentee has the freedom that your direct reports don’t to give you honest feedback when your guidance comes across as too strong, too weak, too impatient or in a way that just isn’t productive. Thoughtfully received feedback can translate to better communication in your own organization and can make you a better leader.

New Strategic Insights to Old Issues. The mentee can bring a different perspective to an old strategic problem or issue, providing you with an entirely new outlook and perspective. While discussing your mentee’s troubles in finding that elusive work-life balance may not wholly solve her issue, it may give you a new understanding of your own delicate equilibrium. You may end up finding out that it isn’t just your mentee who has the opportunity to take your sage advice.

Renewed Enthusiasm. Energy, enthusiasm and drive are infectious. Get around someone who views their career and our industry as new and exciting and pretty soon, you’re going to experience some of that too. As you get more energized and enthused, your enthusiasm becomes infectious to others in your own organization. See how that works?

Reflective Awareness. Sometimes, while listing to a mentee, you can gain valuable awareness of issues that may exist—and have room for improvement—within your own organization. This doesn’t have anything to do with confidential information or trade secrets, but more with broad-based issues that tend to exist across companies. If your mentee is struggling with managing communication issues with her direct managers or others in her organization with particular job functions, there is a good chance that her management is pretty unaware that she is having this problem. Now ask yourself: What’s the communication like in your own organization?

Becoming a Mentee. Every mentor has an opportunity to become her mentor’s mentee. Whether it’s the careful explanation on how to use the “Do Not Disturb” function on your iPhone or holding up a mirror to you during the aforementioned work-life balance conversation, you will learn from your mentee. Every partner who crammed themselves into that associate’s office learned something from him, at some point, during his years at the firm.

In its inaugural year, Global Gaming Women (GGW) set a goal of creating an interactive software program for women within the gaming industry to establish meaningful mentoring relationships based on qualities they identify as important to their own relationships. After countless brainstorming and programming hours, we are ready to launch this first-of-its-kind resource for our industry—the Global Gaming Network.

During the process of creating the software program, some unique stories were told that were simply too impossible to not be true. While most of them started with “I was the only woman in the room/gaming pit/office/hearing… ,” almost every story also included the advice from the teller’s own mentor.

There are so many different ways to create a mentoring relationship. They can be created organically out of desperation in law firm libraries, by mandate from corporate human resources departments, and by countless other permutations in between. As GGW gets close to the launch of our mentoring program, and our opportunity to give the next generation of women in the gaming industry the benefit of the diverse and unique experiences of our industry’s women, it’s important to remember the value we all—mentors and mentees—can bring to and gain from the mentoring relationship. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a cup of coffee.

I encourage every woman in the gaming industry to pursue a mentoring relationship. If you are interested in learning more about the Global Gaming Network and signing up to become a mentor or mentee via this exciting new tool, visit www.globalgamingwomen.org.

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