For those of us who love tennis, we know it is Wimbledon season now, where sportsmanship, mental and physical perseverance come together into one of the most exhilarating tennis tournaments in the world. A couple of years ago, I remember watching a match between a young but talented tennis player versus an established name in tennis. As I was watching the match in anticipation of a winner, a question kept popping up in my head: is it talent more important or experience? So I asked a colleague with whom I was watching the match to get his opinion. His answer was experience. Mine was talent. So who is right, and is there a right answer at all?
When we look back in history, we will find that this question is not new, it comes around time and time again. Not only in our time, but also in the times before us. We have all have heard stories of the talented but young individual succeeding against all odds, both in mythology, in sports, in history, and in business. As a matter of fact, we as Americans root for the underdogs and this mindset is ingrained in our culture.
Of course, this idea of talent vs experience is especially important in matters of education, careers and professional development. When we are young and deciding on a career path, we often wonder: I am good enough for this? Or conversely, we can say: I am great at this but I do not have experience. The same holds when we are more established in a career but we want to explore a different path. Thus, this question is one of crucial importance to understand.
I’ve come to realize that a winning combination is not just talent or experience, but its talent coupled with experience. So how do we get that? I believe the answer to that is mentorship. One example comes to mind in the realm of start-ups. Many of the start-up entrepreneurs in the tech space where young people who had a vision, the talent but may not have had the experience of building an enterprise. Yet, nonetheless, they were able to build incredible companies. I believe it was in part due to excellent mentorship and advice offered by people around them, be it a start-up accelerator, a VC firm or board of directors. The reason for that is that a mentor is someone who is more experienced, someone who has access to connections and resources, which a mentee may not have. Most importantly a mentor has a broader worldview, which can help the mentee gain perspective and find a direction. However, the benefits of mentoring are not only practical, they also have a profound impact on the confidence, happiness and overall personal development of the mentee.
In fact, the incredible effects of mentorship have been studied both in terms of the impact it has on young children as well as in the workplace. A study done in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters looked at how mentorship impacted about 1000 children and teenagers. It concluded that mentorship had a positive effect on their self-worth and confidence, as well as their resilience to peer pressure. Confidence and self-worth, and the ability to make your own decisions without succumbing to peer pressure are extremely important in a professional career. If these qualities can be fostered and developed in young adults, they will have a lasting impact when these young adults become the leaders of tomorrow.
Another study studied the reasons why mentoring is so effective in the workplace. It found that mentoring is effective at increasing job satisfaction, as well as a commitment to the organization they are working, which leads to less turnover of employees. Thus, mentoring was found to be crucial in helping employees feel more satisfied in their environment which left them with less desire to leave the company. We all know when we are happy we are doing our best work.
Thus, mentorship is a crucial tool for success. For those of us who are new to something or young entrepreneurs, it is important to find a mentor who can show you the way. For mentors who have a lot of experience, it will be gratifying to share that experience and in turn get a contemporary and young perspective of the younger generation of the mentee, a perspective they may also not have access to. For organizations, mentoring is an excellent way to ensure job satisfaction and employee happiness.