A mentor is a trusted advisor. This person can offer you experience, guidance, advice, help, wisdom and encouragement as you travel your career or life journey. There is a very distinct difference between someone who gives you training vs. someone who mentors you. 

Training is usually led by someone with credentials who is able to explain the training materials. The trainer delivers the content as efficiently and effectively as possible within the timeframe given. Training is usually complete after the session has ended, and there is little to no interaction after the training has ended.

Mentoring, however, is usually led be a skilled professional who has experience in the area that they are discussing with you. Motivation is a key aspect of mentoring – the mentee often initiates the relationship and has a desire to learn, and the mentor has a desire to provide encouragement and support and transfer their knowledge. The mentoring relationship is more personal, and confidential, and can often feel more open where the two can exchange ideas in a comfortable setting. Mentoring is typically a longer duration than training, and can often last years if there is a solid connection between the mentor and mentee.

The objectives of mentoring usually include:

  • Building knowledge, skill and capability – mentoring will help you assess where you can improve and identify ways to enhance your effectiveness and learning.
  • Provide trusted feedback and guidance – mentoring provides mentees with experience from practitioners who have been there before and can offer valuable insights.
  • Create a network and forum for communication – mentoring provides objective information about tasks that you face, and offers an additional ways to gain information.
  • Professional development – mentoring helps to establish relationships to ensure that lessons learned are passed on and information is communicated throughout the organization.
  • Situational guidance – mentors can offer their expertise in various circumstances when problem-solving is needed or when there are concerns.

How Do You Find a Mentor?

The opportunity to closely work with a mentor who will take interest in your life and career is a rare experience. More often, it is the case that you will receive guidance from a variety of people for a particular situation or event. There are some companies that you can work for, however, which provide formal mentoring relationships. There are also some churches which offer mentoring relationships, although these are often less formal.

The first step to finding a mentor is to identify a person whom you admire for their skills, contributions, what they stand for, their character or their lifestyle. You should know this person before seeking a mentoring relationship with them. Be cautious of asking someone that you do not know to mentor you – they may lead you down a wrong path and it is possible that who you think they are is not ultimately who they are. Give time for relationships to develop and mature, and ensure that you are confident that this is a person from whom you can learn and grow.

Additionally, try to connect with people whom you can help, by offering your skills and service. Mentoring is often not a one-way street, but an opportunity to learn and grow as a team. Ways that you can help potential mentors include providing them with assistance, commenting on or sharing their work, offer your perspective, and be positive. If you are open, respectful and flexible, then you are the type of person that someone would want to mentor.

Here are some ways that you can potentially find a mentor to connect with:

  • Professional networking events – these are industry clubs or meet-ups which get together to discuss trends, issues and opportunities for business. These are usually meeting times for professional associations in a certain industry.
  • Your place of employment – often many companies offer formal or informal mentoring arrangements to help younger professionals learn from the advice and recommendations of experienced executives. If your place of employment does not offer a formal mentoring program, ask your boss or leader if there is a good person with whom you can connect to learn from. Ideally this person would be different than your boss – this will give you an additional perspective to learn from.
  • Volunteer events – these are often a good opportunity to meet like-minded people with similar values, as well as people who are looking to give back.
  • Church – people who regularly attend religious services are generally very open to assisting others. If you are looking for professional advice, however, ensure that the person at church that you are speaking with has the right level of experience. It is possible that a well-intended person may give you the wrong type of business advice. If you are looking to grow in your faith, values or knowledge of religious content, then looking at your church is a perfect place to start.
  • School – it is rare, but many of us have experienced the type of teacher or counselor who is willing to stay afterward to answer questions, offer guidance and help others. It is possible that this person may be able to assist you, and if not, they often are contacts with similar minded professionals who are willing to give back and help others.
  • Online – finding content posted by people online is very easy these days. Having direct exposure to the character and quality of knowledge by those posting online, is a bit more difficult. Ensure that if you identify a potential mentor via online means that you exercise the appropriate amount of caution so that this person can demonstrate the qualities of the type of professional who is worthy of your investment of time.

While it is very fruitful to have a valuable mentor, this is often just not possible for everyone. It is much better to go it alone than to have a bad mentor. If there is not a strong mentor available to guide you in your career and life, than do the best that you can with the knowledge that you have. Research and read in order to gain understanding of what you need, and in turn try to help others to give them the mentoring that you were not able to receive. That is, after all, how the idea for this book was created. J Remember, the best way to find a mentor is to just ask!

Signs that Mentoring is Effective or Ineffective

After you’ve gone through the process of identifying a mentor, it is important to take time now and again to evaluate whether this mentoring relationship is effective or ineffective for you.

Some signs that the mentoring relationship is ineffective include:

 Effective MentoringIneffective Mentoring
MotivationYou feel more motivatedYou feel discouraged
LearningYou learn things that you feel are valuable and relevant to your lifeYou learn things that are more valuable and relevant for your mentors life
Focus of MentoringYouYour Mentor
GrowthYou learn new skills and gain new experiences that are helpful for your careerYou experience things that are focused on your mentor’s career
How Your Mentor Makes You FeelConfident and comfortableInsecure and intimidated
The Types of Activities That You Engage InActivities that stretch you and help you growActivities that you are incapable of or make you overly stressed and anxious
Your Mentors ApproachA true leader who guides you in a path that is goodA dominating person who feels forceful to work with
The Focus of the ConversationYou, your desires and your goalsYour mentor and their goals
What It Feels LikeAn exchangeInstructions

If the mentoring relationship feels anything like the “ineffective mentoring” section as listed here, then it is possible that you have been paired up with the wrong person for your style. The only exception to this is if you are in the military, then the approaches listed there may be normal and can be expected.

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