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Mentors Key to Career Success for Kids

Mentors Key to Career Success for Kids
Credit: Cranach/Shutterstock

If you want your kids to have successful careers when they grow up, you should try finding them a mentor, a new study suggests.

Kids who have mentors, specifically when the relationship is formed naturally, rather than developed in mentoring programs, are more likely to find work early in life that gives them more responsibility and autonomy, according to research from North Carolina State University. The researchers said this ultimately puts them in line to have more personally rewarding careers.

"We found that having a mentor provides a clear benefit well into their working lives," Steve McDonald, an associate professor of sociology at NC State and the study's lead author, said in a statement.

The researchers define natural mentoring as relationships that develop between an individual and an older adult who isn't a parent, and who takes an active interest in the personal and career development of the person the individual is mentoring. Examples of mentors include aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, clergy members and work supervisors.

"Mentors step beyond their normal social roles in order to influence the lives of their mentees," the researchers wrote in the study.

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, which asked more than 12,000 people in their teens and early 20s if they had ever had a mentor. Six years later, those young people were surveyed again and asked about their work. [Structure Makes Mentoring Relationships Work ]

Additionally, in order to determine which professional benefits stem from mentorship, as opposed to benefits that come from socioeconomic advantages, the researchers used a model that compared people from nearly identical backgrounds, so that the only significant difference was whether they had a mentor. They then examined how these different groups fared in the job market.

"We found that overall employment and compensation were about the same," said Joshua Lambert, co-author of the research and a Ph.D. student at NC State. "But people who had mentors when they were younger had greater 'intrinsic' job rewards."

Examples of intrinsic job rewards include authority and autonomy. Researchers say it's those types of rewards that make work more personally fulfilling.

The study's authors said that natural mentoring relationships likely contribute to intrinsic work valuation by promoting long-term perspectives among mentees about their careers and career goals.

"Rather than emphasizing the short-term extrinsic job benefits like wages and fringe benefits, mentors help young people to consider sustainable career paths that value autonomy, authority and advancement opportunities," the researchers wrote. "Beyond transformations in attitudes about work, mentors also are likely to promote the kinds of skills and resources that are beneficial for intrinsically rewarding careers."

In addition to being personally more satisfying, intrinsic careers can also end up being financially more rewarding, according to the research.

"As careers progress, the earnings of intrinsically motivated youth often end up exceeding the earnings of extrinsically motivated workers, as intrinsic career paths allow for greater advancement opportunities," the study's authors wrote.

The study's authors said their results highlight the potentialfor natural mentoring relationships to help set young people on a pathway to career success.

"The findings imply that mentees learn to place a higher value on jobs with more intrinsic rewards — and those same characteristics are associated with long-term career success," McDonald said.

The research, which was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, was recently published online in the American Journal of Community Psychology.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.