Why be a Mentor? It’s good for everyone – Mentors both teach and learn


POS intern, Vaungh’Nee Walker, at Marine Maintenance with Corbin Purnhagen, Aug. 12, 2016.

By the Port of Seattle

With a busy professional and personal life, you may wonder if becoming a mentor is a good investment of your valuable time. If someone helped you build a strong career, you know how important a mentor is to a young person — it’s a life-changing relationship. But many students don’t have access to a mentor, so some commercial and governmental entities are stepping forward to fill the gap.

For example, for the upcoming summer of 2018, the Port of Seattle became one of several organizations in the Seattle area to partner with Educurious, a nonprofit organization committed to education and community-based initiatives designed to ensure young people have the vision, skills and support they need to succeed in and beyond school. Educurious, in partnership with the Port, is currently seeking industry mentors working in port-related professions to coach students on career goals, provide tactics to handle workplace issues, and help them effectively communicate in the workplace, through a virtual tech-based link 30 minutes weekly, in July and August.

A mentor is typically an experienced and positive individual offering professional coaching and advice – not in a supervisory role, but in a more personal way – to a student who’s exploring a new industry or just starting their career. One-on-one discussions, whether in-person or virtual, help boost the protégé’s confidence and understanding of their career path, and build skills like interviewing and navigating the workplace. But there are also career benefits for the mentor.

Mentoring can boost job satisfaction and re-energize your interest in your career. Great mentors share stories and experiences about their education, industry, career path, successes and challenges. Encouraging your mentee to ask questions about your industry may prompt you to think deeply about your own goals and achievements. You’ll have a chance to reflect on your career, the path that led you to where you are today in the work world, and the organizations that have employed you.

One mentor wants to provide focus and help define career goals for the student:

“I feel I missed my time in high school to achieve my dreams.  Now I am doing it – but with about a 10-year delay.  I don’t want another entrepreneur to miss their time.”

For example, the Port of Seattle is seeking qualified individuals working as corporate, nonprofit or small business employees to serve as mentors to high school youth – whether in aviation, maritime, and environmental professions, along with those working in skilled trades and public administration. These employees might work in information technology, finance, construction, engineering or even fire prevention or criminal justice.

Mentoring develops larger professional networks and enhances relationships. Good mentors gain increased recognition among peers. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a compelling addition to your résumé and LinkedIn profile.

At the Port of Seattle, mentors can attend two in-person events – including a graduation ceremony for their mentees. “It’s an opportunity for local professionals to not only meet their mentee, but also to network themselves, with other professionals and companies who have same commitment to the community, youth and equitable employment access,” says Amberine Wilson, human resources outreach manager, who is overseeing the Port’s mentoring program.

You’ll get to know a different generation. Gen-Y kids will soon sit at desks throughout North America, so cross-generational learning benefits everyone. Together, you’ll discuss challenges in your field and new trends. You’ll help develop the talent your industry needs for the next generation.

In the Port of Seattle program, mentors will help students sharpen their communication skills through informational and mock interviews, and develop “elevator pitches” for in-person meetings. Students will also get a chance to connect with professionals from a variety of backgrounds – there is particular interest in locating professionals of color and owners of small and minority-owned businesses for the Port’s program.

Bonus: Studies have shown that those who’ve been mentored are more likely to mentor.

You’ll refresh and improve professional interpersonal skills. Great mentors expand their coaching and leadership traits, as you work with protégés from different backgrounds, cultures, levels of experience and personality types. You’ll set a good example for your mentee by modeling active listening, appropriate workplace behavior, offering constructive advice, and engaging in optimistic motivation.

You’ll help your mentee understand how to navigate workplace challenges. You’ll share how to avoid mistakes – ones you’ve made or ones you’ve observed – along with tensions and resolutions that take place daily. A young woman in engineering may meet another female engineer, or a young person of color may be mentored by a person of color who is a leader in aviation, Wilson says. Essentially, someone coming from a similar background, and who therefore understands common concerns and challenges, and models success in a position. Students will be able to say, “’I can see myself in this role,’’ Wilson says. “I see someone who looks and speaks like me in this role.”

Mentoring provides personal satisfaction. Effective mentors support the development of another person’s short- and long-term goals. You’ll be fondly remembered as a guiding influence and will create a long-lasting professional legacy that will last beyond your working years. Port of Seattle mentors are matched with interns who complete a questionnaire about their interests and goals.

After all, mentors reassure young people that there are people who can help guide them through workplace challenges. Quality mentoring relationships help mentees grow professionally and personally, and boost the likelihood of future workplace success. Research has shown that high school mentees have a more positive attitude toward school, work and interpersonal relationships, and an increased chance of graduating from high school.

Who is a good mentor?
According to Amberine Wilson, all that’s truly required is a professional interest in developing youth and giving back to the community. Mentors of every age are effective, whether they’re new to a career or close to retirement age. Here are seven more qualities of good mentors, according to a recent study.

  1. Exhibit admirable personal qualities, including enthusiasm, compassion, and selflessness.
  2. Act as a career guide, offering a vision but purposefully tailoring support to each mentee.
  3. Commit to regular, frequent and productive meetings.
  4. Strike the right personal and professional balance. Do get to know your student’s personality and life. In an Educurious survey, 80% of students said that they feel nervous when adults don’t share information about themselves.
  5. Leave a legacy of how to be a good mentor through role modeling and instituting policies that set expectations and standards for mentorship.
  6. Communicate clearly with students and motivate them by providing truthful feedback. Students rely on clear guidance from mentors to improve their skills.
  7. Inspire students to explore their interests. An Educurious teacher said that having a mentor “virtually participate in my classroom fueled my students’ fire to learn – which is what every teacher strives to do.”

How to become a mentor
Becoming a virtual mentor is an easy four-step process:

  1. Complete an online application to capture your interests and expertise.
  2. Participate in a 30-minute introductory phone call with Educurious.
  3. Complete an onboarding webinar.
  4. Pass a background check.

Mentors receive the necessary resources, training, and support to form impactful relationships with students. Educurious guides you through the sign up, onboarding, and matching process and is always available as a resource to answer questions.

Recognized as a national leader on sustainability and economic development, the Port of Seattle owns and operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, cruise, cargo and grain terminals, Fishermen’s Terminal, four public marinas and local real estate assets.


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