It seems like the misconceptions around mentoring are among the largest barriers when it comes to mentoring. Researching mentoring and trying to pinpoint a definition truly revealed to me that, as human beings, we really do not have a good grasp on what mentoring actually means. We tend to get our analogies or metaphors crossed and mistake mentoring for something which shares similar ideas or traits. What blows me away is that we, as humans, can see the value in mentoring, yet we struggle to even come up with a basic definition.
Researching this topic, I found it incredibly difficult to narrow down just exactly what mentoring is. I have been fascinated by the topic of mentoring for years, and I believe now is the time to explore what is a mentor and how do we find a mentor? I believe that through asking the right questions or by asking enough questions, perhaps we might stumble upon something profound.
What Is A Mentor?
I started out this process just trying to narrow down what a mentor actually is without much success. I found a lot of references to the term’s origin and the history surrounding its roots. The definition of a mentor varies from the context or field that the term is utilized. There are those who will try to come up with an all-encompassing definition, and thus they are so general that the definition fails at being anything of substance. All of this left me asking why it is so difficult for us to say what a mentor is and what a mentor does?
The struggle stems from mentoring having several different goals depending on the context or field it is applied. The common thread which seems to be present in all of these is that mentors assist another individual, commonly referred to as a mentee or protégé, towards achieving a certain goal. Mentors seem to know either how to accomplish the goal at hand or how to properly motivate the protégé. Certainly, there are more specifics depending on the context, but I find this adequately encompasses what mentors are and what they actually do.
Finding A Mentor
After understanding what a mentor is, often the next question is, what goes into finding a mentor? Here we will address just a few ideas, but the steps behind finding a mentor seem to be a more common topic that a simple Google search can help answer. In doing my research, there are certain tactics or ideas which many seem to agree upon. Perhaps the first and most prevalent idea when it comes to finding a mentor is that you should not approach a complete stranger and ask, “Will you be my mentor?” Realize this is asking a lot of someone all at once, which typically will result in receiving a “no” answer.
Respect the Process
The second idea which stuck out to me was that finding a mentor is a time-consuming process and should be treated with respect. Finding and keeping a mentor is going to take a lot of work on the part of the protégé. Start doing your homework now. The protégé should not just expect to show up and find the perfect mentor in one meeting. Preparation is key.
Be Willing to Put In the Work
It is important to know what your goals are prior to approaching someone. Research and know the proper protocol of what to do and not to do, and realize it will take persistence. In pursuing a mentor, the right mentor, you will receive a lot more people saying “No” before you get to a “Yes.” If you start out with this in the back of your mind it will be a lot easier when you receive a “No.”
So here we are several hundred words later with hopefully a little bit better understanding of what a mentor is and a few helpful tips to get us started. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a lot of work. What I do know is that the value of a mentor cannot be put into a single post. I hope that this has been enough to spark your interest. For me, these questions are just the beginning of a journey. A journey I hope you will join me on. My hope is that if we ask enough questions, perhaps we just might stumble upon something profound.