By August 16, 2017 1 Comments Read More →

What’s in it for the mentor? Seinfeld (and others) explain.

by Jean Rhodes

In a classic episode of Seinfeld, a puzzled George asks Jerry what a mentor is. “The mentor advises the protégé” says Jerry, and the mentor derives “respect, admiration, prestige.” “Is there any money involved?,” asks George,”would the protégé pick up stuff for the mentor?..laundry, dry cleaning?””It’s a protégé, not a valet!” answers Jerry. Absurdity aside, George does raise some interesting questions. For example, should mentors ever be compensated for their time and effort? And, more generally, “what’s in it for the mentor?” Fortunately, we have many experts who have weighed in.

Should mentors be compensated? Two experts weigh in

George, the quintessential self-absorbed young adult, was focused on maximizing his own happiness and satisfaction. But, as Professor Edward Diener concluded in the  documentary Happy, that “If you only seek your own happiness it can be kind of a selfish thing. But once you move to the spiritual emotions and worry about the well being of others, your life grows…you can, in a way, transcend your own life and death by caring about things that are bigger than yourself.” Although this study (below) is focused on charitable giving, many of the arguments are the same for mentoring.

The many benefits of charitable giving: Prosocial Spending and Happiness

Likewise, neuropsychologist Richard Davison has found that altruistic behaviors can actually release endorphins in our brains and make us happier.  He argues that, if each of us spent time cultivating “various qualities like compassion and altruism the world would be a better place and we’d all be transforming our brains in very positive ways.”

In a  2013 study, which appeared in the American Journal of Community Psychology, Lindsey Weiler and colleagues surveyed students in a structured, service-learning course to examine the benefits that college students derive from mentoring at-risk youth within a structured, service-learning course, Campus Corps, a youth mentoring program. Compared to students who didn’t mentor, those who did had had significantly higher scores at post-intervention regarding mentors’ civic attitudes, community service self-efficacy, self-esteem, interpersonal and problem solving skills, political awareness, and civic action. Other studies have found career benefits following participation in workplace mentoring. 

Study highlights the benefits of serving as a mentor

Need more evidence? Let’s count the ways …

It’s a two-way street: Four ways mentoring benefits the mentor


New study of female college students highlights the benefits of mentoring

1 Comment on "What’s in it for the mentor? Seinfeld (and others) explain."

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  1. Rey Carr says:

    Compensation is often part of formal youth mentoring programs. It typically takes the form of reimbursing for out-of-pocket expenses and minor expenses associated with providing mentoring. A key element of this is program guidelines about reimbursement-type compensation. For example, having a stated policy about buying gifts, regular meals, paying for trips, etc.

    Youth mentoring has had an extensive history of non-compensation. In part because of the hypothesis that a paid mentor might not be as effective as a volunteer in that volunteers may have a higher level of commitment to mentoring. While this hypothesis has scant research to support it in that there are other factors that account for a significant portion of effectiveness, it seems to still be a prevailing idea in the youth mentoring industry.

    Of course, another factor for the pervasiveness of non-payment to mentors is that the majority of youth mentoring programs neither budget for such payments (other than minor reimbursement) nor could they afford to pay mentors. I imagine also that funders would be shocked to see such an item in the operating expense budget item list.

    A third factor is the source of the payment. Who pays? The program or the person being mentored? I can’t imagine anyone supporting a youth program where the youth have to pay the mentor.

    In adult mentoring, however, there are two significant trends towards payment for mentors coming from the person being mentored. The coaching industry, for example, has created a category called “mentor coach” where a coach pays the mentor. In reality, this is really “supervision” but for many reasons in coaching it is called “mentor coaching.”

    A second example of the person being mentored paying the mentor is when the mentor has some specific area that they are promoting. For example, there are many people calling themselves mentors who focus on real estate, finances, the stock market, start-ups, and other areas. While these people call themselves “mentors” they are more likely cashing in on the status of mentoring, when, in fact, they are really acting as consultants.

    These are the people who would not offer their help on an altruistic basis. Unfortunately, they are becoming more prevalent in society. This might cause someone else who might want to volunteer to wonder how come I’m not paid to do this.

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