Building Successful Mentorship Relationships
Written by Heather Kimbrel
Sometimes we need that special person in our lives with whom we can share our challenges, ideas, and successes. We need someone who has been where we are trying to go, someone with an outside perspective we can turn to for guidance. We need a mentor.
A mentor is someone with more experience who can offer feedback and guidance to help us grow into better individuals and professionals. Goals are rarely accomplished single-handedly; a mentor can help you achieve your goals in less time than it would take going it alone.
Consider these benefits of having a mentor:
- Building a new relationship with someone you see as a role model
- Developing new skills and building existing ones
- Having a safe environment to openly reflect on your goals and receive helpful feedback
- Identifying and devising a plan to reach your personal, professional and academic goals
How to find a mentor
Finding a mentor can be as easy as taking a look around you. Who are the movers and the shakers in your industry? Who do you admire and aspire to be like? It is up to you to identify someone you could learn from and who would be willing to put in the time and effort to offer advice and guidance. Approach that individual and propose your idea. The worst thing they could do is decline, but they will at least be flattered you asked! If they decline, ask for a referral for someone else who might be willing to share their knowledge and expertise.
For business professionals and entrepreneurs, if you cannot think of anyone off hand, you might want to look into SCORE for free business advice or even the Department of Defense’s Mentor Protégé Program. Both of these programs are designed to set business-owners up for success; all you have to do is make the initial contact.
For the rest of us, we may need to turn to our network for advice. Membership within a professional or trade organization associated with your professional or personal areas of interest can be a great help. Professional organizations may not specifically offer a mentorship program, but you should find many veteran members willing to assist.
How to be a mentor
If you are passionate about what you do and want to pay if forward, becoming a mentor may be for you. You may not win any awards or receive any special accolades, but you will have the satisfaction of helping someone in need to be successful in your community.
In order to be the best mentor possible, keep these characteristics of a good mentor in mind:
• Show a sincere interest in seeing your mentee grow as an individual
• Give your undivided attention and really listen to what is on their mind
• Ask thought-provoking questions to help them see things clearly
• Respect your mentee and show you are trustworthy by keeping sensitive information confidential
• Facilitate problem solving and refrain from giving directives
In essence, mentoring is a relationship based on the intent to help a less experienced individual grow by providing knowledge, wisdom and expertise. Wisdom does not just come with age, so consider your peers when seeking out a mentoring relationship. Better yet, find a mentor for each area of your life, whether it is professional, personal or academic, since it is difficult to find one person who can advise you in every aspect. You may also think of mentoring taking place face-to-face, but mentoring relationships can be built over the phone, through email and over Skype with people worlds away. No matter where you are going and how you choose to get there, a mentor can be just the ticket you need to grow, develop, and reach your greatest potential. Give it a try!