Mentors can be found virtually anywhere, helping others achieve personal and professional goals. In fact, most of us have probably had a mentor in one way or another; someone who inspired us, taught us, advocated for us or became our best cheerleader! We may even have been a mentor, in any of these ways for somebody else, inadvertently. When you choose to deliberately seek out a mentor or to become one, you add a new layer onto the mentor/mentee relationship, making it exponentially more powerful.
What is a Mentor?
A mentor can be defined as any person who has a certain degree of knowledge or experience in a particular field and willingly enters into a teaching relationship with a person of lesser knowledge or experience in that field to directly guide them to new heights in their area of expertise. It is a broad term that encompasses a boundless range of possibilities. One could, for example, be a mentor in a professional sense, perhaps helping a new author to get their work published or a budding entrepreneur to find potential investors. A mentor can also show up in a more individual sense, helping a mentee to improve their self-esteem or achieve other goals of a more personal nature.
Finding a Great Mentor
If you are in the role of a mentee, the person seeking knowledge or experience from another who is more developed in a particular area, there are a few things that you should know about where to look and how to show up for the journey. First and foremost, it’s necessary for you to be clear on the goal(s) you would like to accomplish by working with a mentor. How will this person help you to grow and what particular steps will they help you to achieve? What sort of knowledge and insights will they be able to give you that can help to facilitate your personal and/or professional growth? What is this person doing with their life that mimics something you would like to do? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can begin to figure out where this person might be spending their time so that you can find them. Perhaps you already have someone in mind that you look up to and would like to emulate.
Your mentor will need to possess certain qualities to make them effective. Having patience, compassion and being a good listener are among the top, but you will also want to look for someone who is an effective communicator, has strong problem-solving abilities, and who has the resources to help you find additional opportunities that might also serve you as you move toward your goal(s). A mentor who believes they are the only one who will be an asset on your journey is doing you a great disservice. If they are truly invested in your success, they will be happy to point you toward anybody else that could benefit you.
As you embark on this partnership, you will need to show up in a certain way as well. Bring a positive attitude, a willingness to learn, a dedication to the process and the tenacity that will encourage you to keep at it, even when things get challenging. You will only get out of a mentor/mentee relationship what you put into it.
Being a Great Mentor
If you’re looking to serve the role of the mentor, there are things you should know to make you as effective as possible. First off, know who you can best serve. What professional skills or life experiences do you have direct knowledge of and how can that knowledge benefit others? Once you’ve identified your audience, you’ll need to set strong and clear boundaries with your mentee so that co-dependency doesn’t arise. Your job as a mentor is to teach your mentee and to empower him/her with the understanding they are fully capable of achieving what you have achieved. Your job is not to do it for them.
Get to know your mentee on a deeper level by asking questions and actively listening to their responses. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what lifts them up and what is likely to shut them down. Encourage your mentee to be involved in the process by having them seek out their own opportunities, help to problem-solve and take action when it is necessary. Be patient and encouraging as they grow and embolden them to use multiple resources as they move toward their goals.
Regardless of whether you are in the role of the mentor or the mentee, it can be both greatly rewarding and greatly challenging. One thing is for certain; if both parties are equally engaged, there can be a great outcome from a mentor/mentee relationship.
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