Mentoring is a deliberate alliance between two people which has the goal of a more experienced person helping the less experienced colleague grow and develop. Although there may be some teaching involved, it is different from a traditional teacher teaching a student. The mentor does not simply feed the protégé information or train them in skills like he might a student. Some use the word “apprenticeship” when discussing mentoring, but that isn’t exactly right either. The less experienced is not necessarily subservient to the more experienced as apprentice usually are. It’s more of a sharing. The word “relationship” takes a primary role when defining what a mentor is. There is a mutual respect in mentoring. Overall, mentoring is a unique arrangement which escapes exact comparison to any other arrangement. Some of the qualities that make mentoring unique are that they are:
Mentoring is Life Changing
Mentoring is about skill and confidence building. The result of successful mentoring is that the less experienced will become more experienced from the relationship. While there may be some instruction involved, mentoring will create a far more profound change than the mere gaining of knowledge. A professional life will be changed and made better by the experience. A person will enter the relationship at one level of competence but should come out at an entirely new one. Good will become better, and better will become great. The novice or the mediocre employee will experience with the mentor that which they need to shine into the future.
Mentoring Usually Entails Informal Communication
There are usually no rules or curricula involved in mentoring. When a mentor meets with her protégé, they usually meet face-to-face and the time together usually has a spontaneous nature to it. While companies may have a formal mentoring program, that is usually just a method of organising and connecting people. However, more often than not these corporate set-ups usually work like a dating service except the goal is professional growth instead of romance. A mentor is more likely to meet his mentee over coffee or lunch rather than in a conference room or a classroom. There is often no formal agenda other than any agenda the two people involved might create. Rather than being agenda-based, two people who team up might decide to use the time for problem-solving or creating challenges or learning experiences. Or it might just be for simple support.
Mentoring is a Time Commitment
When a person chooses to mentor someone, they commit for the long haul. When a person chooses to be mentored, it’s the same. Mentoring is not about swooping in, fixing something and then swooping out again. Mentoring is not about temporary fixes. It involves each party pledging to nurture significant growth over time.
Mentoring is a Shared Journey
Both parties need to put the right amount of energy into this unique association. Mentoring is a shared journey and recognising that will make the odyssey more productive. If it feels too one-sided, then some of the elements necessary for growth may be missing. Both need to contribute to the process. When one thinks of mentoring, it’s easy to think of the protégé as gaining from the relationship. But the mentor also gains. Helping a colleague and passing on important parts of his craft is satisfying. And, as a bonus, sometimes a fresh perspective from somebody new to a field can add something wonderful to a seasoned career. The focus of mentoring is the mentor helping the mentee. However, like with any sincere altruism, one gains plenty from the act of giving. Both people share in the benefits.