MENTORSHIP PART 1.
“Stand on the shoulders of giants”
We hear the term “mentor” thrown out frivolously so we are here today to dissect some misconceptions. First, who is a mentor? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a mentor is a trusted counselor or guide.
Common Misconceptions about Mentorship
1. They have to be much older than you
While often, older people have much wisdom to impart since they have been through more of life than us millennials and Gen Y’ers, don’t feel like your mentor has to fall within a specific age bracket. A mentor is just someone who has more knowledge or experience than you in an area that you want to improve. Simple. That is not confined to age. Do not overlook a potentially valuable mentor because they do not look like this.
2. They have to be experts in their field or have a million years of work experience
False. As stated earlier, your mentor just has to be someone who is farther down the path than you are so that they can guide you and share their knowledge and wisdom. Don’t feel like if you don’t have a strong relationship with the CEO of your company or the most distinguished professor in your field then you have failed in securing a good mentor. Instead have eyes that are open to finding opportunities everywhere. Who knows, that person who you least expect just might be the best guide that you could ask for.
3. It has to be a formal and sterile relationship
First of all, let us state the obvious--you and your mentor have to have a relationship. This is not a transaction where you robotically ask them for advice every 5 years and proceed to forget about them until the next time that you need something else. Mentorship is an actual RELATIONSHIP. Get to know this person (appropriately, of course). Although they are someone with more expertise and/or farther along on their journey than you are, they are still a human being with interests, passions, and a story. Be genuinely interested in them as a human being and not solely in what you can get from them.
Your relationship with your mentor does not necessarily have to be limited to 10 minute meetings in a cold conference room (although that very well could be the case). It could also be built over meals shared, laughter, and a genuine respect for this person whom you are learning from.
4. A mentorship relationship always has to happen organically
So you mean to tell me that this person will not just fall down from heaven, take an Uber to my house and show up at my doorstep with a halo, a smile, and the words “I am your Mentor” written on their t-shirt? I hate to be the bearer of bad news but unfortunately this is not a Hallmark movie. While some mentorship relationships do happen organically, often, you actually have to take the initiative to seek out a mentor. Take notice of the people around you whom you can learn from and do not be afraid to ask questions and take the first step in developing that relationship.
5. The relationship is all about YOU
As the mentee, it is easy to assume that a mentorship relationship is all about you. After all, it could be that you are the one who typically initiates and sets the tone of your interactions with this person. Note though that mentorship can be valuable not just for the guided but also for the guide. It forces them to harness and sharpen their skills, become better at sharing the relevant parts of their story, and exposes them to fresh ideas and new perspectives via the mentee. Be aware that this is a two-way interaction and be willing to engage in honest and ongoing communication.
Stay tuned for Part 2. We’ll have more information about finding a mentor and facilitating and maintaining the relationship.
Decaro, Monica W. "The many benefits of mentorship: one professional offers her changed perspective on the value of mentorship and some insight into the gains it affords to both sides of the relationship." Strategic Finance, vol. 98, no. 9, Mar. 2017, p. 25+. Gale Academic OneFile, https://ida.lib.uidaho.edu:7215/apps/doc/A490551828/AONE?u=mosc00780&sid=AONE&xid=5a2cd3c6. Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.