Deborah Heiser, Ph.D. is the Founder/CEO of the I.M.AGE Institute and The Mentor Project. She holds a degree in Applied Developmental Psychology with a specialty in redefining what being older looks and feels like. She has a 20-year track record of award winning research, presentations and consulting. You can learn more at www.i-m-age.com.
Q) How did you come to study mentoring and its benefits?
A) I’ve been working in the field of aging for more than 20 years. During midlife, and particularly at the time of transition into retirement, I heard over and over from people how afraid they were to lose their identity, whither away from boredom, or feel completely devalued. Over the course of several years, I started to see that mentoring is talked about only from the perspective of the benefits to the mentee. There hasn’t been a conversation about the benefits to mentors. So, I decided to start The Mentor Project to document how mentors feel about mentoring.
What I found was astonishing. After nearly 45 interviews, regardless of the mentor’s previous job, their financial status, or where they lived, everyone said being a mentor changed their life – and they all believed it changed theirs more than it did that of the mentee. It is now my mission to let others know the value of mentorship and the benefits the mentors receive from giving back.
Q) Is mentoring good for you? How?
A) Yes, mentoring is good for us. The adage “Tis Better to Give than to Receive” is actually true. We are built to give back, and research published in Harvard Business Review (2016) shows that those who do give back are three times happier than those who don’t give back. Those who are generative (give back without expecting anything in return) avoid becoming bitter and stagnant in later midlife and beyond. So, mentor. It is in fact good for you!
Q) What are the obstacles / fears you’ve witnessed that inhibit involvement in mentoring?
A) Often, as people reach retirement, they don’t consider mentoring. Either they believe their life at the moment of retirement is like a cliff they are about to fall off, or they simply don’t think they have mentoring options available. For those who feel like they are preparing to fall off a cliff, mentoring is often a welcome option that they hadn’t considered. It is far easier for those who don’t feel they have opportunities to mentor. As soon as options are provided, they are almost always ready to go!
Q) What is the importance of connectivity — at every age?
A) Meaningful connections are so important to us no matter the age. But, as we grow older, the meaningful connections become especially important because we can trust, feel valued, “safe”, and positive about our lives. This isn’t just me saying this. Harvard has a 75-year-long Grant study that shows that to age well, we must have meaningful human connections. So, the saying “quality not quantity” is true. We need quality relationships rather than many superficial relationships.
Q) Why would you recommend mentoring for corporate retirees?
A) Mentoring allows corporate retirees to shape the next generation in the way they would like. It is an opportunity to leave a legacy, to pass on knowledge, values, and skills, which in turn passes a part of the mentor on to the next generation. Whether it is an idea, value, or an innovation, the mentor lives on through the mentor/mentee relationship. Mentoring is a way to “stay in the game,” but with the luxury of doing it on his/her own terms.