What Being a Mentor Means To Me: 13 Things You Learn From Volunteering Your Time

We all know the importance of finding other women to serve as our mentors. Having someone to look up to and turn to for advice will get you everywhere in your career. It's not always easy to find that special someone who has the time to serve as your mentor, but one person you can definitely find? Someone who could use a mentor herself.

This year, I started volunteering for Minds Matter, an organization that helps prepare high-achieving students from low-income families for college. As a Critical Writing and Thinking Advisor, I helped two high school seniors through the college application process.

These girls were smart and funny, with amazing personal stories to tell. Working with them every Saturday reminded me why telling stories was so important to me. And when they each told me they got a full ride to college, I was prouder than the time I scored my mom floor seats to see Bruce Springsteen. (And we're from New Jersey.)

Obviously, I decided to become a mentor to help others. But, as it often happens when you start giving back to your community, it wound up making me feel much better about my life. Here are some of the biggest benefits that I found come with being a mentor.

It gets you out of your own head

My friends and I spend a lot of time analyzing our lives: Was my boss being passive aggressive in that email? Should I go to that party, and what should I wear? What does he mean by texting "k"?! It's enough to make your overdose on your own self-obsession. Immersing yourself in someone else's life and helping them with their issues — even for an hour — will make your own feel small by comparison.

It reminds you why you were passionate in the first place

Even if you love what you do, work can be exhausting. It's so easy to get caught up in the little things that make each day so stressful and forget why you do what you do in the first place. When one of my mentees — a future business major — told me that our working together had made writing more fun for her, it made me all warm and fuzzy inside. The fact that I could share my passion with someone else? Pretty badass.

You'll learn something new

My girls had totally different interests than me — one wants to study business, the other medicine. Every time we walked through their essays, I learned something new about their backgrounds, the schools they applied to, their potential majors, and their personalities.

You can talk about Divergent ad nauseam

Sure, I have adult friends who appreciate dystopian YA fiction and CW shows as much as I do, but there's something exhilarating about dissecting them with the audience they're actually meant for.

It can help your career

You know what makes a good manager? Someone who knows how to work with other people; especially people who might be younger than them. You know who knows how to do that? People who've already mentored younger people. Everything you've learned from mentoring students can — and should — be applied to the workplace (except, maybe, those Divergent discussions).

Mentoring organizations will also connect you with other successful colleagues who have similar interests as you. Gatherings and benefits are great for networking, and you'll be surprised at how many new friends you might even meet.

You get to be a parent without all the tough stuff

You get that satisfying feeling of pushing someone to do their best but, at the end of the day, you get to send them home to their real mom and dad. You're like the cool older sister, only even smarter and more responsible.

You get to realize how far you've come

Remember when you were an overly-confident teenager who acted like she knew exactly how her life was going to play out, but secretly had no idea what the hell you were doing? Well, you made it! Now you're even in a position to help shape young, impressionable minds. Look at you!

It makes you look good

Hey, it's true. Has anyone ever not been impressed by someone who's doing something good for others? Note to self: Perfect conversation fodder for first dates.

You'll learn new slang

Just because teens talk in acronyms and abbreviations doesn't mean you can't. As long as you don't show up with your new vocab words emblazoned on a trucker hat, you're super cool.

You create a legacy

Here's why I'm a mentor: because I had some really awesome and inspiring people help me get started in my career, and I want to pay it forward. When you mentor someone else, you'll inspire them to do the same when they grow up. Before you know it, you could be six degrees of separation from someone who mentored the next President of the United States. And that's a good contact to have.

You get to redo the best parts of high school...

Graduation, college acceptance, prom, senior week — ooh, those were the days. You can share what you learned (ie. don't spend prom weekend in Seaside Heights) with the next generation, so they won't live with the same regrets. Win!

...And give thanks for being over the awful parts

Having trouble at work? Multiply that by 10,000, and that might equal your daily stress level in high school. (Remember when you had a pop chemistry quiz and your ex-BFF hooked up with your crush, all in the same day?) It could always be worse: You could be back in high school.

You will have a major impact on someone's life

Cheesy, sure, but totally true. Just being there for someone can give them the confidence to go after their biggest goals. And that's a feeling that keeps on giving.

To find out more about organizations you can volunteer your time and/or money to, click here.

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