Mentor, in Greek Mythology was a friend of Odysseus and helped Telemachus his brother’s son. According to Wikipedia, that’s how mentor came to be a word meaning,”someone who imparts wisdom and shared knowledge with a less experienced colleague”.
Everyone should have a mentor at least once-someone, with your growth in mind to “show you the ropes’. They say when the student is ready the teacher will show up. I’ve had a variety of mentors over the years for various points in my life. Most just showed up.
There are many different types of mentoring programs. Some are formal mentoring programs where the company pairs a seasoned employee with one just joining the field/company. In the trades, plumbers electricians, carpenters and commercial painters and other professions like these, have a formalized or informal, apprenticeships, where a less experienced worker or someone totally new learns by doing and observing the work. This is a different form of mentorship. What makes any mentor effective are the following:
Qualities of a great mentor
- Willingness and openness-wants to be there and have a mentee (protege)
- Eager to answer questions and encourage them by being warm, and approachable
- a professional who has wisdom to share-take the protege under their wing
- provides guidance and opportunities to network-this is not a trait that must happen
- Savvy in the company-usually has at least 3 years in company
Many companies try to pair up mentor and protege who are close in age, believing they can relate better. This is often untrue. Someone in same age-range might not know all the ins & outs as a more senior employee would.
Universities are seeing the benefits of mentoring as well. When I ran the mentoring program when a Career Advisor, students were paired with alumni/ae professionals in their field of interest. The best mentors, were the mentors who provide opportunities to shadow them during the workday. One doctor-mentor allowed his student to watch a surgery. She came away with the certainty that this was the field for her! Luckily, she had a very dedicated mentor who wanted to truly be of service. How very rewarding.
Common mistakes to avoid
- Some company mentors are chosen as a reward or a monetary incentive is offered. This dilutes the goal of having mentors who truly want to be there. You might ask-well, why would you take your own time and help another? The rewarding experience of knowing what you said/did was of value and truly assisted their protege to grow.
- Expecting the protege to make the first move-that can be daunting to approach a senior professional or an alumni professional, proteges might feel, nervous, embarrassed or shy.
- The mentor gives so much information, the protege is overwhelmed. As with any relationship, there is a getting to know you phase. Rather than a lecture, just have a conversation. Then both parties can relax.
- Assuming the protege’s questions without the protege’s input. This is a conversation and questions are asked and answered when just talking.
Mentor/protege relationships can just happen. They also can be for a short period of time. These relationships grow organically. When I first joined a department,my boss and her boss became my mentors. Later on, when I went to a new position, someone outside my department, showed me the ropes and how to navigate office politics. This was an informal mentorship relationship but very rewarding for both of us.
Now,I have several mentors for various parts of my life. As a solopreneur, one mentor is another solopreneur in my field. Another one is completely in a different field who I ‘met” first on LinkedIn. Through Peak Potentials, I have a coaching mentor as well as trainers in the company that I admire and learn from every time I’m in their presence… And now, it’s my turn. I have reaped the benefits of having a mentor and want to give back. I’m a mentor to a coach just starting out. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. They all have one very important trait, they honestly want you to learn and grow…If they’ve done their “job”, you will. Please share if you have been either role or would like a mentor-I’ll try my best to be of service to you!