A mentor is a person-be it a coach, guide, tutor, counsellor or trusted advisor-who is willing and able to spend his/her time and expertise to influence or direct the development of another person, while a mentee is a student, protégé, apprentice and eager learner who seeks the valuable advice of the mentor to grow personally, professionally or in certain instances; spiritually.
As such it is clear that a mentorship is a relationship formed between a mentor (guide) and a mentee (learner) with the goal of sharing knowledge or expertise between the mentor and the mentee. I agree with Eric Parsloe, from the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring who opined that;
“Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be”
Mentorship can take many different forms viz;
- It can be a formal arrangement with written goals and scheduled meeting times.
- It can be an informal arrangement comprised of an occasional chat or email exchange between the mentor and the mentee.
- It can be a situational mentorship arrangement such as a mentorship program to gain a specific skill, like a technical or workshop apprenticeship.
- The mentorship can be supervisory in nature especially where the mentee is in an entry level or Graduate Trainee position at a Company and assigned a Supervisor to oversee his/her work performance and learning progress.
- It can be a spiritual mentorship, for instance when a mentee is starting out in Church Ministry as a pastor, or a priest. Usually, a spiritual mentor guides a mentee in the use of their giftings, personal growth in the Word of God and acts as a spiritual accountability partner.
- Another form of mentorship is the career or professional mentorship whereby the mentee seeks out a higher professional in the field they want to work in or already work in, to act as a guide on their career goals and aspirations.
- Many people don’t know about this one, but a mentorship can benefit the mentor by making them aware of new ideas. In this case, the mentee acts as a sounding board for the mentor as he/she is given advice and vice versa. In such a case this is called boomerang (in a good way) or reverse mentoring/mentorship.
TYPES OF MENTORS
Due to the fact that a mentor has a direct impact on a mentee’s career and many times, personal development; close attention should be paid to what you need as a mentee hence you will be able to find a mentor who can provide the right direction. Some of the types of mentors include;
While growing up, your parents will be your first coaches. If they’re good, they’ll encourage you when you’re down, listen, and help you figure out solutions to any form of challenges or problems. However, after a certain point in your adult life, their advice may cease to be as effective. This time usually heralds the entry of older, wiser people into your life who are better attuned to your industry and job. Such (career) coaches can coach you through tough moments, train you to think big on projects and ideas, and listen to help you solve work-related problems. The main objective of any coach (be it parents, career coaches, etc.) is that they derive satisfaction in the knowledge that they are actively helping someone younger who has potential; to be guided in different perspectives.
This are a very rare set of mentors to have. Connectors are outward facing people who take delight in connecting others. They are able to distil useful advice if you have a specific problem, goal or challenge and will take it upon themselves to help you with that goal, challenge or problem or refer you to someone who can and will help. As a mentee, if you desire access to the latest information in your Industry, being kept abreast of summits, youth workshops, capacity building programs, even job interviews, it is a wise idea to have a connector as a mentor, because as they have a wide network of people, who all respect them, they have been there and done that and can tell you what actions brought them the most success.
This type of mentor is capable of challenging you the mentee to reach greater heights. They call you out on mistakes, criticise your ideas and show you the cons of situations. You may ask, how is this beneficial? Well, for one thing, Challenger mentors know that any mentee needs a healthy push to heighten their sense of urgency, to keep them moving forward in order to make a great start in life. Challengers can be super smart and super-fast- they often are hard pressed for time, so you will find that they get to the point quickly, give advice quickly and can analyse a problem with maturity and certainty. Call upon them when you really need it.
This type of mentor is a person who has the career that you want. As a mentee, you should be able to spend time with them, get to know how they operate in different circumstances, how they prepare for big events, what they think about and how they analyse situations. They are mentors who, unlike coaches who listen more; will like to give you a lot of advice-whether sound or not- on their experiences, what yours could be, what you should know, what you should be doing with your time, studying and what to do to be like them and are free with providing information to you.
As it turns out, a truly great mentor often embodies more than one of these personality profiles. Basically, it’s all about the mentoring dexterity exerted on you the mentee- having mentors who know when to push, when to caution, when to teach and when to inspire. Also, as each mentee has a unique combination of personality traits, what is most important is finding the right mentor-mentee combination at the right time and eventually a mentor who is willing to assist and share your successes.
CHOOSING A MENTOR
In making the choice of a mentor, the mentee should bear in mind that the quality of mentorship they derive from the mentor will have a direct impact on whether or not they, the mentee; have the zeal to seek out help or mentorship in the future. It is wise to take time to evaluate the potential mentorship, as the choice of a mentor is a critical one. In essence, a bad mentorship, lacking patience or thorough guidance from the mentor; can reduce the mentees’ zeal to seek help from more knowledgeable sources in future.
These are some important points to take into consideration when choosing a mentor. They are;
- Know who they are: In certain cases, prior interaction and consistent communication with a mentor for a certain period of time could go far to create the right atmosphere for a successful mentorship. You the mentee should take the time to learn the schedule and habits of the mentor you chose, in order to approach them at a convenient time. Effort should also be made to learn their likes and dislikes as well as create an opportunity for discussions with your mentor to build up rapport with him/her before requesting mentorship.
- Relevant Qualifications: Closely tied in to the point above, it is important that in choosing a mentor, their qualifications match the professional, career or spiritual guidance you the mentee need. For instance, it would be absurd to ask advice on the right path of a career in the government Civil Service from a self-made millionaire who started his own Company. Since his path to success and thus experiences were different, he may not provide adequate advice on what steps are required to guarantee good success in a civil service career.
- Similar Values, Life Goals and Achievements: A popular saying is “show me your friends and I will tell you who you are”, but in this case the saying should read, “show me your mentor and I will tell you who you aspire to be”. Basically what this means is that when you take stock of the values, life goals and achievements of your chosen mentor, they should align with your own values, life goals and you should derive a sense of satisfaction that the achievements you aspire to or align with are similar to their accomplishments. For instance the lives of a pastor and a musician bear no similarity; so the foundation for a mentorship to be based on is lacking. In essence, the mentor should be a positive role model.
- Proximity: In this digital age, effective and regular communication will facilitate a meaningful, long term mentorship, unless in a case where the mentorship is informal. A mentor being easily accessible via modern communication or in person, alleviates the problems of distance especially in cases where the nature of the advice given is more technical and needs to be immediately replicated for the mentee to understand what he/she is being told. For example a supervisory mentorship taking place in a car factory, etc.
- Level of Cooperation and Openness to share skills, knowledge and experience; For a mentorship to be successful, the mentee should actively look for and note the willingness, sense of co-operation and level of openness in the mentor to share skills, knowledge and their experiences. If these key traits are missing, the learning process could grind to a halt. Similarly, other traits that a mentor should possess are empathy, honesty, practiced communication, and providing motivation by setting good examples for others to follow, both in their personal and professional lives.
Stay tuned for Part 2
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