Mentoring is a professional activity, a trusted relationship, a meaningful commitment. Mentoring is important, not only because of the knowledge and skills mentees can learn from mentors; but also because mentoring provides professional socialization and personal support to facilitate success in mentees present and future endeavour.
Types of Mentors
Different mentoring relationships generate a whole host of mentor types and styles.
The wise leader
The wise leader is someone who through executive title, seniority, or status within the organization has reached the pinnacle of his or her career; and is worthy of and willing to impart knowledge and wisdom to others in the organization.
The life coach
The life coach is a professional mentor, often in the organization’s human resources division or an outside consultant. Staff looking to change jobs or careers often hire life coaches outside the work environment to evaluate their performance, prepare for new career opportunities, or set and achieve personal goals. These relationships tend to be short term with a targeted and prioritized set of objectives. While life coaching usually happens in a face-to-face environment, more and more life coaches are offering their services virtually—over the telephone or the Internet.
The teacher could be an educator, working with current or past students to build their professional talents and skills, or someone who assumes the “honorary” role of teacher; promoting learning and growth by imparting knowledge, debating ideas, or recommending resources.
Peer mentors participate in an informal relationship in which colleagues or friends pair up to help each other grow within an organization. They might team up to gain professional development experience, share networking contacts, or support each other’s career path choices.
The confidante is not so much a mentor as someone to use as a touchstone or sounding board. It is helpful in both healthy and dysfunctional work environments to have a confidante with whom to bat ideas around, air frustrations, request reality checks, and seek advice.
The self-help mentor
The self-help mentor takes the form of books, manuals, articles, checklists, software, Web sites, that provide proven formulas or step-by-step advice on how to grow professionally. While not a substitute for the real thing, some of these resources are useful in helping individuals map a career path and lay a foundation for future mentoring relationships.
The inner mentor
This is the internal voice that calls upon intuition to glean and mould life experiences into a personalized leadership philosophy. This nontraditional self-mentoring approach takes into account past experiences, current competencies, and future potential. The first step is to conduct a life experience inventory, identifying experiences that might hold leadership potential. It is the deconstruction; the picking apart; of these experiences to reveal underlying values and beliefs that will translate into a customized set of leadership principles. The process of mentoring yourself is difficult—it takes concentration, self-reflection, and the ability to trust your instincts.
Benefits of Being Mentored
Finding a mentor who you aspire to be like, within your chosen profession helps you add to your network. It’s highly likely that should your mentor not have the answer to a question or problem, then someone they know will. They can introduce you to like-minded people and some of these people could be valuable connections throughout your career. Never underestimate the power and benefit of having a broad network of people – as they are the people you can call upon for information, advice or maybe a leg up in an organisation or an entry point into a new industry or profession.
Having a mentor is a great way to find out about new job opportunities as they may hear about opportunities before they are advertised and should be willing to give you an introduction to any potential employer. Being introduced like this gives you a head start in the application process and its always great to have someone in your corner like a mentor.
Further, having a fresh set of eyes or someone with greater experience and perspective in an industry to review a job offer or opportunity can be helpful – to make sure it is the right move for you, will help you reach your ultimate goal and also to make sure you are getting a fair deal.
A mentor could be a sounding board at critical points throughout your career. They can provide guidance on career management, an insider’s perspective on business or make introductions to key industry contacts. If you have an idea for your business or product then having a mentor to bounce these ideas off can help you plan and organise how to put them into action and make them a reality.
Your mentor may be able to see potential pitfalls and opportunities that had not occurred to you, which could be the difference between success or failure. Mentors can save entrepreneurs valuable time and money by helping them craft a road map to success – usually curated from years of experience.
Motivation can be a hard thing to manufacture; but telling your mentor you’re going to achieve something and setting yourself a goal means you have someone to hold you accountable to these goals. This means you’re more likely to take action and will therefore see results quicker.
If you are having a problem at work, a mentor can give you helpful advice to navigate the problem in a professional way. Their experience and insight can stop you making mistakes and can give you the answers rather than you having to waste valuable time and money working out the right way to handle the situation. Additionally, having a mentor outside your organisation can be beneficial as the advice is more likely to be bias-free; not bounded by politics; for instance they can tell you the harsh truth such as its time to leave you job and find another.
Asking friends and co-workers for help when you’re struggling can be helpful; but a mentor is likely to give you an entirely different perspective from anyone who knows you personally. They can offer you impartial advice from a professional point of view; their advice may help you see opportunities and challenges from a more constructive perspective.
An independent mentor can be honest and not guided by internal office politics; for instance if you are an excellent employee but you have no future in an organisation; your boss or co-worker may not give you honest feedback; but an independent mentor may suggest alternate employment options to realise your true potential.
Talking through things with people more experienced than yourself can help you to learn and grow quicker. Since your mentor knows what additional skills and optional certifications are valued in your field, he or she can point you in the right direction when it comes to investing in your continued education and training. Having a mentor will also potentially open new and different perspectives; such as from a business owner vs staff member, a career veteran vs a new industry graduate. Having alternative perspectives allows you to adapt and develop, overcome obstacles, negotiate from different perspectives and understand strategic motivations.
A mentor is not only handy when you are having a problem at work. Sharing your successes with them can be hugely rewarding for them as well as for you; and can help you find out ways to build on this success in the future.
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Culled from: Mentorselect