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Mentorship In Times Of Crisis

The Value Of A Creative Perspective

Nir Bashan headshot
Nir Bashan
A senior colleague mentors another in the office

The Fed keeps all of us on the edge of our seat with interest rates. Will they continue to hike them as they say they will? Will inflation continue to spiral out of control? Will demand from consumers remain constant or shrivel up in recession? Mortgage applications hit a 22-year low this month. These and many other issues plague the business, and the unknown has led many to fear the worse. How can we ever keep up with the changes that are headed our way at breakneck speeds? What can we do?

It turns out that in times of massive change and unpredictability there is one thing that we can rely on time and time again. And that is creativity to spark innovation. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and in times of hardship, creativity and innovation can thrive. One creative idea you can use to help navigate the current landscape and turn adversity into opportunity is to foster a mentorship.

There is some benefit an experienced mentor can bring to help navigate the current climate. Mentors have seen it all before and can offer historical context. They have ridden out lean times and can share some tips and tricks. They have a long-term view which may come in handy. 

Let’s look at some of the numbers: 61% of employees seek mentors at work, yet only 31% report having them. There is a serious shortage of mentorship as it can provide some amazing benefits to both the mentor and the mentoree.  One hand, the mentor can potentially learn a fresh way of thinking about things or even ideas on challenges they are facing. And the mentoree can potentially receive subject matter expertise and critical guidance on career choices and market conditions.

It seems like this is one of the most often requested tools that people are looking for in the workplace. But most people don’t know how to go about finding a mentor.
It turns out that most people do not approach mentorship from a creative mindset – and so there is a huge gap in mentorship industry wide. It is time to flip the equation and look at this important relationship creatively. Here are two powerful ways to shift your mindset from an analytical perspective to a creative perspective. Let’s dive in:

Focus On What You Can Bring To The Table

Mentorship, like all relationships at work, are a two-way street. They involve a ton of give and take as the relationship matures into something of value for both parties. And that is key: promoting value to both parties is the secret-sauce of mentorships. 

Mentorship can have such great creative and innovative value especially in tough times. In good weather, anyone can be a hero. But it takes a particular type of grit to be of service when things are not going as expected. That is why a mentor can be so valuable. Especially today.

So, try to focus on what you can bring to the table. Get creative. What can you contribute to the mentor that would want them to take you on in the first place? Is it a particular expertise you have in the sector -- an approach that is not industry wide? Really think about that last question as it will unlock lots of opportunity for you while looking for a mentor. What can you offer that will make you a better candidate for mentorship?  Instead of thinking about what a mentor can do for you, think instead of what you can do for that mentor. And speaking of which…

Give Back Each Time

I have hired over a thousand people in my career. I know that because when I published my McGraw Hill book, the editors made me count. And what I found was some mixed success in both mentoring and being mentored.  Successful mentorships always had some give and take and were beneficial to both parties. The relationships ended up had something for everyone. The unsuccessful mentorships all had one thing in common – no matter what:


Here’s a short case study: I recently mentored someone who was full of promise. She didn’t have much experience but was hungry to learn and improve her career. She even scheduled weekly meetings on my calendar where she would make a list of work issues from interpersonal relationships that she found challenging all the way to asking for help on wording emails to get optimal efficiency – and I gave her feedback and mentorship on the issues she was facing. This continued for four years. 

And in all that time, not once did she say, “Thank you.” Not once. I got little out of it – she got a lot out of it. Therefore, it was unsustainable, and I began to dread our meetings. 

If you want to be mentored, focus on what you can give back instead of just focusing on yourself and what you can take out of the relationship. Each time you have a session with your mentor, have one take-away prepared that you can give that person. It may be small but that’s OK. Most times just the smallest adjustment to our pathway, thought process or ideas can have profound impact. Think about one item you can give away in each session to help that mentorship remain healthy. Mentorships are like any other relationship you have in life. They have to be balanced or else they sink. 

On one of the greatest Beatles albums – I think it was Abbey Road – the record ends with a phrase that should sit close at heart to anyone looking for mentorship, “And in the end – the love you take – is equal to the love you make.” In order to find a mentor, you must be willing to give just as much as you take. And if you can find a way to do that, then you will not only find a mentor, but you will also find a boost in the overall quality of your work relationships in general. And that is the secret to finding a lasting and meaningful mentorship – one that works in harmony for both parties involved.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Banker July 2022 issue.
Nir Bashan headshot
Nir Bashan

Nir Bashan is a Top 100 nonfiction book of all time author and speaker. He helps folks become more innovative and creative at work.

Published on
Jul 20, 2022
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