In this Sept. 19, 2020 file photo, two people stand on a jetty as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean in Florida. A mentor can be a good sounding board for your career. Credit: Wilfredo Lee / AP

By Emily Morrison

No matter what you do for work, having someone to bounce ideas off of is a valuable asset.

Whether it’s figuring out what to wear, where the Keurig’s located or how late you should stay, it’s nice to have a colleague who’s been around a while show you the ropes. Plus, if you’re in a field with particularly high burnout, consulting people who know how to manage work-related stress may help save your sanity.

Beyond remaining balanced, there are several awesome benefits to having a mentor this year.

Mentors give you good feedback

Often, the only reaction you receive about your performance comes in the form of evaluations. Your supervisor may observe you for a small portion of time, then generate a long list of all the ways you do or don’t measure up.

Ironically, even though evaluations are tools to help employees improve, these experiences can feel more deconstructive than constructive.

Having another person on staff informally observe you before you have a formal evaluation helps you work out the kinks ahead of time. Plus, most mentors are well-versed on how to give feedback in a helpful way. They know how to begin with the positives before jumping into what needs work. And, they won’t leave you hanging with nonspecific critiques like, “Just fix it.” By offering their own tried-and-true approaches, mentors provide practical suggestions to your work dilemmas. So, when you frequently invite a mentor into your workspace, then you frequently reap the benefits of their wisdom.

It’s a win-win.

Mentors help you work smarter

Any job can be isolating when you’re doing it by yourself, especially after the changes that came with the onset of COVID-19. In a time when many people are still working from home, sharing your struggles with another professional who understands the daily drudgery of managing your time and workload from your kitchen table is invaluable.

Collaborating not only helps improve your own mental health, but it actually makes you work smarter, not harder.

Take, for example, Ken Blanchard’s business motto. Blanchard is the co-founder of “The Ken Blanchard Companies,” an international management and consulting firm. In one of his many motivational speeches Blanchard advised, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” The same philosophy applies to the mentor/mentee relationship. Your mentor can help you figure out how to tackle big projects, be more efficient with your time and accomplish shared goals.

Truly, two heads are always better than one.

Mentors encourage a growth mindset

Because the emphasis is on the process, having a mentor allows you to admit that you’re not perfect. It gives you a safe space to say, “Hey, I need some help here.” This real, ongoing dialogue between colleagues creates an authentic opportunity for reflection and growth.

When you find something that is or isn’t working, you can share it with your mentor. And in turn, when your mentor discovers what is or isn’t helpful, he/she can share it with you. In this way, you learn from each other.

Reporting out your successes and failures gives you accountability, just like having a workout buddy makes it easier to hit the gym. Knowing someone else cares about how and what you’re doing makes it easier to reach your goals. This shared responsibility helps keep you on track when those distractions and moments of chaos threaten to sabotage your efforts.

Mentors keep you from burning out

The biggest benefit to having a mentor this year is a bit of no-brainer: encouragement.

Who isn’t exhausted right now?

Doctors, nurses, first responders, essential workers, teachers, parents, psychologists, business owners, caregivers and the list goes on — everyone is feeling the burn. That’s because the pandemic has created a new kind of burnout that challenges the mental wellness of us all. Sometimes all you need is someone who will listen to you. Mentors may not be able to solve all of your problems, but really, who can? The difference between experiencing burnout and feeling reenergized comes down to one factor: having another share the load. Isn’t that all anybody can do?

A thinking partner, a coffee-mate, company for your misery, this can make the difference between saying, “I don’t got this,” and “I got this,” all year long.

So, if you’re looking for honest feedback, smart advice, a growth mindset and someone to save you from the abyss, consider working with a mentor. And don’t forget to thank them. Mentoring is a thankless job that’s both underpaid and under-incentivized. You may need a mentor to complete your certification, but mentors are already licensed experts. They give their time and talent because they enjoy helping others, not for the money or side-benefits. There is no money and side-benefits.

There’s just you and your gratitude, so keep it coming.

And cheers to a sane, happy, productive new year!