The word “mentor” traces its roots back to the 18th century Greek mythology in Homer’s classic The Odyssey. Since that time, mentoring themes have been presented in countless other books, such as Marquis Caraccioli’s The True Mentor and The Seasons of a Man’s Life, by Daniel J. Levison.
But the importance of the mentor is no story or myth. Today, a mentor can be an invaluable resource as one begins his career and to advance in it. Career mentoring connects college and university students to professionals and alumni in their chosen speciality in order to gain guidance, insight, and professional contacts.
As has its history of use, the word mentor has also evolved: it is both a noun (a person who advises) and a verb (to advise). It’s also permeated into other words such as mentoring and mentee.
The benefits of mentoring isn’t a modern revelation; it has tested the hands of time dating back to tribal societies, where older tribe members passed on their hard-earn knowledge onto to younger tribe members. Tribal leaders taught younger members how to find food, stay sheltered, and understand how to be successful in their environment. Is it any different today?
But with most things in life, including mentors, there is the good, better, and best. What can you do to ensure you’re getting the cream of the crop in the mentor department? Here are some kernals of wisdom to help.
A magnificent mentor:
Has experience in your specialty. While it can be difficult to find a mentor in your specialty, the work to find one is worth it. That person could be currently working in the industry, a consultant in the field, or be retired from the industry. If you find a mentor that demonstrates continued learning in your chosen specialty, it’s even better.
Is a positive role model. He or she motivates others by being a good example. Mentors show passion for their work, and their passion is infectious.
Embraces the opportunity to mentor you. Great mentors take a personal interest in you as a mentee and values the mentoring relationship. They don’t take their responsiblity to mentor you lightly. They’re invested in your success, and are committed to helping you realize your goals and dreams in your career.
Provides constructive feedback. A valuable mentor won’t beat around the bush. He won’t place you in bubble wrap because he thinks you’re too fragile to be out in the world without it. He will offer feedback, both good and bad. In other words, a good mentor will tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear.
Empowers you. On of the greatest traits of a good mentor involves empowering his mentee to develop his own strengths, beliefs, and values as they apply to his profession.
Picks you up after a missed success. A good mentor understands that failures are part of success. A great mentor is there for you after you’ve fallen short or made a mistake. He is there to guide you through a difficult time. In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Clarence, the guardian angel, helped George get through a difficult time when his world was essential falling apart. Clarence listened, showed compassion, and offered bits of wisdom and sound advice to George. Magnificent mentors are your Clarence.
Is Available. Last, but not least, your mentor needs to be available — by phone, text messaging, email, skype, or in person to answer questions you might have, be a sounding board, and give advice. Mentoring takes time, and the mentor must have that time and be willing to share it with you.
Keep in mind that you can have more than one magnificent mentors. But regardless if you have one mentor or five, a mentor-mentee relationship requires hard work and commitment — on the part of both parties — if it’s going to be the best that it can be.
Through our Talent Network, Colaraz offers students and professionals/alumni the opportunity to build career mentoring relationships.