Is a Mentor Worth It?


At 4word, we talk about mentorship a lot. It’s something I passionately believe in, and it’s one of the pillars of 4word and why I founded it. The fall session of our 4word Mentor Program is accepting applications through Friday, September 2, 2016, so if you’ve been thinking about connecting with a mentor or know someone who wants to, now is the time to apply.

For as much as I can talk about all of the many benefits of having a mentor and sponsor, how to make the most of your mentorship (if you’re in one now or want one in the future), and how to keep your mentorship on track, there really is nothing more effective in communicating the importance of mentorship than to hear from those who have personally experienced its impact.

I asked mentees and mentors from the 4word Mentor Program to share some of their thoughts and experiences with their mentorships, based off of some commonly asked questions from those considering being either a mentee or mentor. Their responses are listed below. My hope is that after reading their testimonials regarding their mentorships, you will feel compelled to seek out a mentor or mentee of your own.


How did your mentorship change your career trajectory?

“As a mentee, my mentorship added a lot of energy to my career trajectory. I had bloomed quickly and then lost momentum, unsure of where I was going and quite frankly, where I wanted to go. I had switched industries but my core competencies had been the same. But I went from a small start up to one of the most admired corporations in the United States. All of a sudden, I was a small fish in an ocean and I needed someone to believe in me (that wasn’t my boss), and tell me that I could not only do my current job, but thrive and move up in the company.

“One of the biggest breakthroughs for me was realizing that I had two majors fears jerking me around. I was afraid of stagnation, which propelled me to try new things, innovate, and be myself. But I had a competing fear of failure that would cause me to freeze up and stay in my cubicle. To be honest, I think those are fears that many of us face. My mentor helped me break down the ‘whys’ behind my fears and helped me frame a conversation with my boss about them. Talk about a breakthrough moment! I learned that I had people who were rooting for me, wanted me to try new things and push the division forward, and thought that failure was just another step toward innovation.

“That conversation was a game-changer.

“I’ve been able to identify some big, audacious goals for my career. My boss has continued to invest in me, getting me additional leadership training. We’re talking about the skills and steps needed to move me farther along in my career and bump me up a pay grade. I’ve been given the time and freedom to develop those skills, identify new ones, fail a few times, and keep growing.” – Caitlin Anderson from Autodesk, 4word Mentee

“During the time I was being mentored, I had a new opportunity come my way. I mentioned my interest in it to my mentor, and said I didn’t think I had the requisite experience and knowledge for the task – a presentation on a trend in my profession. She asked me some great questions about the topic, which led to a discussion that demonstrated to me that I did, indeed, have something to offer at the leading edge of this trend. I can say for certain that I would not have taken the opportunity if it had not been for that conversation with my mentor.

“While I was mentoring, I was very much taken with the fact that my mentee had accomplished so much already without believing that she had done so. I think I helped her to see that in order to move forward to areas of greater leadership and responsibility she needed to acknowledge how far she had already come – the same thing that I needed help with when I was being mentored.” – Kelly Behle, 4word Mentor and Mentee

Was your mentor’s guidance and coaching able to give you the confidence to address your current compensation at your job or ask for a raise?

“Yes! That conversation didn’t happen until a few months later, but my boss and I are actively working to get me promoted – and bumped up to the next pay grade. Having consistent conversations with my boss laid out that groundwork, but having the sustained energy about my career that my mentor provided really helped me get honest about what I wanted. The raise hasn’t happened yet, but I know it’s a matter of when, not if!” – Caitlin Anderson from Autodesk, 4word Mentee

“My mentee was in the process of applying for positions during her graduate school experience. I was able to help her with the process of demonstrating her confidence that she was an excellent ‘fit’ for a particular position and its requisite compensation.” – Kelly Behle, 4word Mentor and Mentee

How has participating in a mentorship helped you develop your professional network?

“Getting to know my mentor felt more like developing a friendship than networking. Participating in 4word in general is a fantastic way to grow your professional network. There are women out there who are dealing with the same professional challenges – meeting with them gives you additional perspective on how to tackle your own challenges.

“Additionally, the training I have received as a result of my mentorship has widened my professional network. I’m involved in Toastmasters, where I’m part of a mastermind group of professional women, and I’ve started to network more within my company.” – Caitlin Anderson from Autodesk, 4word Mentee

“I’m almost ashamed to say that I had neglected LinkedIn until I was mentored! At our first meeting, my mentor said, “What are you doing?!?” — in the kindest, most jovial manner possible! Believe me, I had a LinkedIn account going by the time we spoke the following week. That seems so obvious now, but I needed someone to push me there.” – Kelly Behle, 4word Mentor and Mentee

Do you feel like you and your mentor will stay in touch, even after your formal mentorship is concluded?

“Kudos to the 4word team for matching me up with my mentor! We hit it off on so many levels. My mentor truly ‘got’ me and we both wanted to stay in touch even after the formal mentorship ended. We are meeting monthly and I am so grateful for that.” – Julia Ginn, 4word Mentee

“I think we will stay in touch. Both of us are in the middle of a busy season, so I don’t expect the same level of contact. But I do know that at any time, I can send her an email, ask her a question, or just see how she’s doing.” – Caitlin Anderson from Autodesk, 4word Mentee

“Yes! In fact, that is something I want to elaborate upon. I struggled with finding where that line – real or imagined – exists between relationships in professional network and relationships in a personal network. So, I was really watching my mentor for cues and clues about that part of her life. We ended our defined mentoring period with her stating, “We’ll be in touch. That’s not an option.” That spoke volumes to me in terms of not only our relationship but also the way that she expands her network to enfold people as they come into her path. I’ve carried on this practice with my mentee, too.” – Kelly Behle, 4word Mentor and Mentee

What added resources/tools did you glean from your mentor?

“I learned from my mentor to not look at a job title, but rather the description to see if it would match my skills and interests. I kept a journal to jot down the things I enjoy doing and don’t enjoy doing during my work day. It helped me to hone in on adding more of what I enjoy doing and minimize the tasks I don’t prefer. My mentor introduced me to Strengths Finder and it was amazing. I didn’t realize that some of the things I do or the way I am are considered ‘strengths.’” – Julia Ginn, 4word Mentee

“My two mentees to date had very different issues but I would say that in my experience what I was able to provide my mentees was more qualitative. I believe they walked away with more confidence in their ability to achieve their goals, more focus, and the ability to recognize self-imposed obstacles to their success.” – Erica Sartain, 4word Mentor

“Perspective! My mentor and I have similar personalities and career trajectories – she’s just a few years down the road from where I am. When I first met her, I knew we were going to get along. She’s enough like me that I can’t sugar-coat what’s really going on. She made me get gut-level honest about what I was facing. She helped me deconstruct the fears that I was facing and restructure my work so that I was energized and encouraged about what I was doing.” – Caitlin Anderson from Autodesk, 4word Mentee

“The most useful resource my mentor provided was the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Assessment Grid. This material produced a marked improvement in how I address conflict at work. I was promoted shortly after the mentoring session ended, and I’ve been grateful many times over for the timeliness of that area of personal growth.” – Kelly Behle, 4word Mentor and Mentee

Do you feel that having a mentor has increased your confidence, both at work and in life?

“Yes and yes! My mentor, as an objective person, could see me as a whole person – not just as an employee or just as a mom. It was incredibly encouraging and gave me such confidence in both my professional and personal roles. I can and should bring all of my strengths to every part of my life rather than trying to minimize those that don’t seem to be appreciated or rewarded. She helped me recognize some of the negative self-talk and how I was hindering and hurting myself. Instead of thinking of myself as “weird”, I now see that I am unique.” – Julia Ginn, 4word Mentee

“Heck yes! There’s something wonderful knowing that someone believes in you, especially someone you admire professionally. They have the ability to pull out truth in your life, even the smallest kindlings of dreams and desires, and help blow life into them. My professional confidence has been boosted by working with a mentor and I’m dreaming beyond my desk job!” – Caitlin Anderson from Autodesk, 4word Mentee

“There are no impermeable barriers between who we are as private individuals and who we are as women in the workplace. My mentor spoke frequently of the cultural and family context in which she developed into who she is now — which could not have been further from my experience. That made a huge impact on me. I grew to think of my own context as purposeful and the idea had gelled just enough for me to pass that along to my mentee about a year later. My mentor did not so much instill confidence in me. Rather, she uncovered the confidence that was inherently present when I correctly began to view my life’s path in my own context.

“Similarly, my mentee needed to hear someone else’s view of the confidence that should operate in her life given the robust combination of professional successes, life experiences, and unshakable personal beliefs. Sometimes we just need someone else to see it, first, to point it out to us.” – Kelly Behle, 4word Mentor and Mentee