Professional lives can be daunting, no matter the level of expertise or experience. Be it for a career change or a growth opportunity, even the best of us stand to benefit from the advice of a seasoned professional. Someone who has been there and done that. And that is the crux of mentorship — where an experienced individual offers guidance to one who is starting out. In this article, we explore the various aspects of this relationship, starting from what is a mentor to how to become one.
What is a Mentor?
A mentor is an experienced professional who provides informal guidance to beginners as well as experienced professionals for career growth. Being in a mutually beneficial professional relationship, the mentor has the mentee’s best interests at heart and adopts a flexible mentorship style to meet the latter’s needs. Mentors are supportive and have clarity of thought that helps the mentee define their career path and establish achievable business goals.
A mentor imparts specific advice, expertise, and resources aimed toward fulfilling these objectives. They tend to use examples from their careers to illustrate various hurdles that demand resilience, courage, and motivation. Mentors also help mentees navigate various career paths to find their best fit. In this regard, they help expand their mentee’s network and guide them toward necessary educational and training modules.
What is the Purpose of a Mentor?
Mentors provide a sounding board at various crucial junctures in the mentee’s career. They guide the latter towards an objective view of the various options at their disposal and taking the right decision considering circumstantial variables. The career guidance mentors provide may not be achievable in a more structured and purely professional relationship, such as coaching. A mentor can also help their mentee recognize, and avoid pitfalls in business due to their years of experience and expertise. Mentoring, in simple words, functions as an insider’s guide to various areas such as industries, workplace dynamics, the industry network and so on.
What a Mentor is NOT?
While mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship, it is unfair to have unrealistic presumptions from a mentor. Therefore, to establish practical expectations and goals for fruitful and nurturing mentorship, not only is it important to understand what is a mentor but also what it is not.
Mentoring is Not…
1. Giving Directive Advice
As opposed to positioning their advice as the only credible suggestion, mentors tailor their recommendations to match the mentee’s predicament and needs. Put simply, they prescribe the way forward rather than giving directive advice.
A mentor is by no means a therapist. Mentors are future-forward and specifically positioned to help the mentee with their career paths. Ruminating on past incidents, childhood traumas, and deeply psychological or personal issues fall strictly outside the scope of mentorship.
3. Passing of the Torch
It is detrimental to perceive mentoring as a leader grooming their successor. On the contrary, the relationship is driven by the mentee — their vision, career goals, and reception of guidance.
Why do People Become Mentors?
Wondering what motivates individuals to become mentors? The role can drive professional as well as personal growth and lead to an enriched, insightful worldview.
Benefits of Being a Mentor
- Mentorship builds confidence and fosters leadership skills which can contribute to career advancement
- It hones interpersonal skills and helps adapt to various communication styles
- It offers new perspectives through interactions with someone from a different background
- It refines existing knowledge and leadership skills, thus offering a significant boost to career growth and promotion at the present workplace
- On the personal front, mentoring is a rewarding experience that promises satisfaction by contributing to someone’s growth and development
Traits and Skills of a Good Mentor
Now that we know what is a mentor’s purpose, let’s list down the skills and qualities that mark a reliable mentor.
Qualities of a Good Mentor
- Experienced and professionally successful
- Similar value system
- Patient, trustworthy, and understanding
- Excellent communication skills
- Non-assertive and open to ideas
- Empathetic and honest
How to Find a Mentor
Finding the right mentor demands energy, time, and clarity. Remember, it is an organic process with long-term benefits.
Tips for Finding the Right Mentor
1. Determine Your Career Goals
This is the first and most essential step to finding the right mentor for your career. Even though you don’t need a detailed career plan, it’s important to know what your long-term goals are and be open to new situations and opportunities.
2. Find Someone Who Has Your Dream Job
Successful mentoring is founded on the right match between the mentor and mentee. It helps to have inspirational figures who can offer sound advice while being a neutral sounding board for your thoughts and ideas.
3. Examine Your Professional Network
Your professional network may comprise former and current colleagues, bosses, professors, and even friends in various industries. It is a priceless resource and an appropriate starting point in your search for a mentor.
4. Seek Out Industry Experts
Someone with an idea of your preferred industry will be of huge help in finding a mentor. They are also the right people to advise on new projects, required certifications and training, and growth opportunities.
How to Develop a Good Mentoring Relationship
Like all interpersonal interactions, mentoring calls for certain ground rules that contribute meaningfully to both parties involved.
Ways to Develop a Good Mentoring Relationship
- Set Regular Follow-up Times
Following your initial conversation with a promising mentor, consider how often and when next to follow up. It’s important to remember that their schedules may be just as busy as yours, if not more; mutual respect for each other’s time, therefore, is paramount.
- Utilize In-Person Meetings for Vital Communication
Emails and phone calls can only go so far and it’s important to connect in person from time to time. For instance, critical discussions on a change in career paths are best held in an office or over coffee, or via video call when in-person is not possible.
- Utilize Social Media
Owing to its nature, social media facilitates regular interactions without the pressure of a professional setting. Reminders, quick advice, or simply dropping an update are good ways of establishing your investment in the relationship without being pushy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the Different Types of Mentoring?
Traditional one-on-one mentoring, distance mentoring via digital platforms, and group mentoring are the most common types of mentoring.
2. Do Mentors Get Paid?
Mentoring is typically not a paid relationship, as mentors are industry experts who don’t charge for advice. It tends to be a more informal relationship. However, in recent years, you can choose to find mentors on web-platforms and connect with them. Many senior professionals make thousands of dollars picking up side gigs as mentors.
3. What is the Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach?
There are certain fundamental differences between the two. Coaching is structured, short-term, and performance-driven. Mentoring, however, is development-driven, long-term, and informal with shifts in objectives over time.
4. Why Do People Need Mentors?
Mentorship enhances knowledge, offers constructive criticism, and leads to immense personal and professional growth. A mentor is also a trusted friend who cares about your career growth and development as a whole.
Mentorship can be an effective value-addition to your leadership skills. Another way to enhance them is by exploring Emeritus’ leadership programs and bettering yourself.
By Deyasini Chatterjee
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