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Growing up, most of us had certain accomplished personalities that we always admired and looked up to. In our still and quiet moments, we could whisper messages of hope to ourselves, to the effect that someday we would love to become exactly like those people.
While we may not have known it at that time, these people were actually our mentors. So, in basic terms, a mentor refers to any personality that possesses admirable traits or has accomplished feats that are worthy of praise and recognition.
A mentor must have special skills, talents, or competencies that you don’t already have but wish to learn. Upon interacting with your mentor, you should feel empowered, reenergized, and challenged.
While a mentor offers advice, the recipient of that advice is known as a mentee or a protégé. And the relationship that exists between these two parties constitutes a mentorship.
But does it mean that only kids should have mentors? Absolutely not. Even an octogenarian can have a mentor. It’s only that as we grow older and become wiser, we tend to look at our mentors as potential competitors and threats. That might help to explain why the concept of mentorship is gradually losing its meaning.
But as you shall find out, mentors play a crucial role in our career, personal, and social developments.
What Makes a Good Mentorship?
For a mentorship to exist, the mentor must possess valuable knowledge and skills. But that’s not enough; they must also be able and willing to share their knowledge and experience with others.
As a mentee, the greatest quality that’s required of you is being a good listener. You must also be patient, as you’ll not acquire new skills overnight
Common Myths Associated With Mentorship
1. A mentor must be older than you
This is the most popularly-held misconception about mentors. Admittedly, most mentors happen to be people who are older than us. However, a mentor can be any age.
2. A mentor must be a celebrity or public figure
It’s undeniably true that most mentors are reasonably famous personalities. But a mentor doesn’t have to be a national or international figure. You can find a mentor in your family, circles of friends, or even at your workplace. As long as these people possess traits that you admire and are willing to share their achievements with you, then they qualify to be your mentor.
3. You can only have one mentor at a time
Now, various reasons often drive us to look for mentors. Some people look for mentors that can advise them in their careers, while others seek mentors in whom they can confide about their love life. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a relationship counselor who also doubles up as a career adviser. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one mentor at a time.
4. You must formally ask someone to be your mentor
While it isn’t entirely wrong to ask someone to be your mentor, experts advise that you should let the relationship evolve naturally. For instance, if the person is your friend or work colleague, you could start by hanging out with them more frequently, while asking for casual advice. Remember, people will readily offer you advice when you don’t make it too obvious that you need it.
5. A mentor and mentee must be drawn from the same careers
Naturally, you’ll find yourself more endeared to people in your line of work. But when looking for a mentor, always cast your net wide. You could be a medic, architect, or an attorney, but your mentor might turn out to be a comedian, musician, or painter.
6. Your mentor must be based in the same city as you
Again, this is another mentorship myth that needs busting. A mentor and protégé could be living worlds apart, but their shared interests will always keep them in touch with one another.
Top Benefits of Having a Mentor
1. A Treasure Trove of Knowledge and Information
As we’ve already mentioned, the primary motivation behind looking for a mentor is the need for someone who can share with you knowledge or skill that you don’t already possess.
A mentor is like your personal trainer. They’re not just involved in teaching you new tricks, but they’re also committed to ensuring you learn and master skills that will be invaluable in your career, social, and personal development.
2. A Mentor Is a Friend
Mentors and mentees are usually people who get along quite well. The relationship may have been founded on mutual benefits, but it eventually evolves into something deeper. Before you know it, you have a friend with whom you can share some of your deepest emotions, darkest secrets, uplifting achievements, and frustrating setbacks.
As your dearest friend, your mentor will always have your back. When things aren’t working out for you in your family, love or career life, they’ll be there to give you a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. And when life seems empty, despondent, and short of inspiration, your mentor will always be there to inject new energies and perspectives. As a result, you can look up to the future with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.
Needless to mention, a mentor is also useful in helping you expand your professional networks.
3. You Get Actionable Advice
Your mentor can share with you some of the most invaluable tips, the kind that you’ll learn nowhere else.
Maybe you’re struggling to identify a suitable career path. Perhaps you’ve recently started a venture that doesn’t seem to be taking off. Or, you could be facing difficulties initiating and sustaining romantic relationships. When faced with these challenges, some people may seek help in literature materials, others may resort to online resources.
However, there’s no better place to find help than from someone who has been there and done that. Remember, much of their knowledge is gained from experience. Therefore, the tips your mentor shares with you are likely to be practical, relevant, and actionable.
4. A Value-adding Partner
Over the past few years, there has been a major paradigm shift in the employment landscape, from qualifications-based to skills-based recruitment. Recruiters are no longer using a degree or diploma certificate as the sole determiner of an applicant’s suitability for a job.
To put it succinctly, it isn’t about what you know but what you can prove.
Learning new skills and trades from your mentorship program will give you so much leverage in situations that would otherwise need extra incentives.
If you’re hunting for jobs, you’ll always have an edge over your fellow job seekers. And if you are already employed, your employer will often have one special reason to award you a promotion or retain you even in the face of massive layoffs.
5. A Mentor Can See Past Your Abilities and Weaknesses
A mentor isn’t a question and answer bot where you simply key in your queries and wait for plain, cut and dried replies. As your personal friend, your mentor should be able to appreciate your efforts, celebrate your achievements, and pinpoint areas for improvement.
Your mentor will see more of your faults and point them out; not to use them against you but to help you address your inadequacies. Even better, they will also shower you with praise when you accomplish a feat. That way, you feel motivated to attempt tasks that would have otherwise bogged you down easily.
Research suggests that human beings perform optimally in environments where their little efforts are appreciated. Getting praised regularly enhances the release of feel-good hormones, making you see no impossibility in every undertaking.
6. You’ll Keep Growing
Lastly, mentorship is about continuity. It’s about getting on with something and getting good at it. You learn a new trade and hone your skills to become a master at it. Then, you apply the learned tricks in real-life situations, even as you try out newer skills.
In the end, you’ll become highly knowledgeable, experienced, and generally contented with your lot in life. Who knows, you may wind up a mentor yourself.
Mentors are all around us. If you’re always looking for one but never finding, maybe you’re looking too hard. Stop and think about the aspect of your life that you wish to improve on. Then, start searching for a mentor from your circle of friends, relatives, work colleagues, or classmates.
If you’re utterly convinced that no one fits the bill, you can now look for a mentor outside your inner circles.