Why being a mentor can be the answer to develop your soft skills

Last Updated on June 22, 2020

The line between hard and soft skills is not thin, but rather distinct. Hard skills can be taught, learned and perfected over time, whereas soft skills are more challenging to be developed, and depend on a variety of different factors. Although both are helpful for one to thrive, soft skills have to do with transferability: we can use them no matter our age or career status. It is rare that workplaces train and “challenge” their employees to acquire them. Most of the time, we even have difficulties to define these skills, understand how they can help us in real life, or admit to ourselves that even as experts, we still have a ways to go in cultivating our soft skills.

Soft skills are sought after in today’s workplaces in growing rates, but acquiring or further developing them as an adult can be a challenge. One way to do so is by being a mentor. Mentoring, at its very core, is about interconnecting people and getting some lessons from one another. It leads to real and meaningful conversations, lets people show their vulnerability, listen actively, see different perspectives, and encourages reflection on what we practice routinely. 

A surprising benefit is that mentoring empowers mentors to improve their soft skills.

100mentors, as a tech enabler, can maximize and even optimize this relationship between mentors and mentees, as the software itself can connect mentors and mentees from Africa to Asia and from America to Australia. And if the benefits and all the pros for a mentee are obvious regarding the skills that they can gain, the same should be true for mentors, for whom such a global connection can reveal new perspectives and ways of thinking.

1. Mentoring develops questioning and active listening skills.

Since the 100mentors app is about questioning and answering in a predetermined time frame, a mentor can easily gain skills related to inquiry. Questioning is the key to gain more information, and even questioning yourself is the key to reflection. Even though students are the ones asking the question, questioning is a lesson in itself for everyone. Recognizing the art of questioning helps us recognize the art of the answer, too.

Answering has as a precondition active listening or listening “out of the box.” A mentor can optimize their active listening skills by learning from the sophisticated students’ questions and answering to all their implications. Although this process is quick – it takes just 2 minutes from start to finish – it is rather deep and meaningful to share their wisdom.

Active listening requires the activation of all senses, and the 100mentors app gives the mentor the opportunity to see the mentee, listen to their questions, understand the tone of voice, and even take some time to think, since overall active listening requires patience and short periods of silence, namely non-verbal communication. This, practically speaking, means that since mentors answer at their own convenience, they can reap the benefits of short periods of silence to process the information they just heard being asked from students. 

2. Mentoring boosts emotional intelligence

In the early 1990s, Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of Emotional Intelligence, which has to do with a variety of emotional abilities that can profoundly affect peoples’ way of thinking and doing.

According to Colman (A Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford University Press), emotional intelligence refers to the capability of recognizing emotions, using emotional knowledge to direct thought, and finally control emotions so as to adapt to environments and succeed. But why and how important is this skill for a mentor? And actually, can a mentor exercise their emotional intelligence by simply being a mentor?

Given that emotional intelligence is strongly connected with self-awareness, a mentor through a constant reflection with younger people asking them questions, can realize their expertise in a specific topic and can exercise themselves in understanding the different learning needs of young people. The mentor can also come to realize the difference in giving an answer to a 7-yeard old child or to a 19-year-old university student regarding the same topic, developing emotional intelligence along the way.

Emotional intelligence goes way beyond professional success or gaining the trust of others in the workplace. It can cultivate our personality, improve our interpersonal relations and boost our empathy for other people. And, while there are a lot of ways to improve emotional intelligence, mentoring is a strong example. This is especially true using 100mentors, where a mentor can be connected with thousands of young people from 33 different countries, and thus different cultures. Mentors even get to learn from the answers of other mentors with different backgrounds to the same questions. 

3. Mentoring teaches leadership and job satisfaction

Workplace studies show that applying an official mentoring program helps realize an important positive impact on employee retention, salary grade, and pay. These workplace studies are just an example of how a mentor, whether a young professional, a Ph.D. student, or an expert can develop leadership skills and boost their confidence in their professional life. A mentor, who has the opportunity to share their perspective on a student’s question is going firstly and very importantly to realize why questioning itself can be the impetus behind any change, any optimization and any bright sign behind on a company’s, academic or societal environment. 

But mentoring programs can teach more than that: whether it’s done as part of an official workplace program, or taken on by an individual, mentoring can boost job satisfaction and re-activate the interests of mentors, in some cases reigniting passion about one’s career and life plans. This is of great importance for personal development and ends up being the driving force behind the development of soft skills for any person. 

In the words of a mentor

Nadia Kalogiannidou
Account Manager, Trivago
Mentor, 100mentors

Nadia Kalogiannidou, a young professional, who is an Account Manager at Trivago in Germany, and mentor on our platform, spoke with us regarding the development of soft skills, which can come as a result of being a mentor at 100mentors. 

We had a thoughtful conversation in which she shared her thoughts on personal and professional development. She explained, “I will be always developing in my life. I always try to go the extra mile, and extra mile and extra mile. There is no limit on that when you talk about developing your soft skills regardless of your age, level of expertise or wisdom.”

She also spoke about mentoring itself and how beneficial was for her. Nadia said, “Mentoring is beneficial for a mentor as well. When you talk, you think more and more. You hear different questions, from different students, from different regions of the world and different ages. This is kind of magical. Being a mentor is a responsibility.” Mentors like Nadia make our mission a reality: giving students answers to their questions. 

She took some time to discuss in depth the questioning-answering experience through 100mentors and how beneficial it can be for everyone: “What I really like in the 100mentors app is that I can post videos. This triggers me to go back to my office and discuss with my team… nobody, for example in my job, can sell by sending an email, they can only sell by talking to people and by looking at them. And here I can find the value of a pair of questions and answers, in the communication itself, when you get to see the other person, and talk with your whole face and not only your voice.”

While mentors can gain soft skills like communication from the answers their post, they can also develop their emotional intelligence by watching videos of students asking questions, too. Nadia told us what she gains by connecting with young people. “ A mentor can see the movement, the expressions of the face and the same with the answers. Here is the importance of emotional intelligence as a soft skill that a mentor can gain.” She continued, “It is really important because a mentor can understand if a mentee asks for this or [that] reason and answers based on that.”

Circling back to the beginning, we can clearly say that in the battle between hard and soft skills, the first ones are the ones that we can easily prove we have and are widely acknowledged, but the soft skills are the ones that will make our career and our personal achievements matter. Being a mentor and developing these soft skills helps make this possible. 

Yannis Kourtis is the Mentor Experience Associate at 100mentors. He holds an MA in International Relations and Strategic Studies and has worked as a youth trainer, helping young people to develop life skills beyond the classroom. Yannis is passionate about empowering professionals and academics to leave their legacy by connecting with students worldwide.

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