When departing in his epic journey, Odysseus called on one named Mentor to groom Telemachus to be the next king of Ithaca. Sometimes Mentor did well and at times, not so well. It is interesting to note that the goddess Athena appeared to Telemachus in the form of Mentor on occasion.
In modern use, the term mentor refers to one who advises, guides, and trains. The appropriate reference to a person under the protection and care of the mentor is protégé. The word comes from the French meaning “protect.” The mentoring experience involves a relationship, not an institution or even much structure.
Daniel Levinson’s research on adult development indicates that the mentor is usually 7-20 years older than the protégé. I believe experience and care qualifies a mentor more than chronological age.
Everyone needs the influence of emotionally mature individuals who care about our welfare, growth, and who have already walked where we are now walking. Everyone can be a mentor if they are sufficiently emotionally mature and have more experience than the protégé.
How do you get a mentor?
Find someone you trust, respect, and who has been where you want to go in your life or in your work. Ask them to be your mentor. Let them work with you for a while. If you find the relationship is not working, discontinue the mentoring relationship and find another mentor.
How do you become a mentor?
Ask someone to allow you to serve them as their mentor. I am sure a feeling of discomfort has arisen as you read this since most see this as self-promoting. It can be but it all depends on your attitude. If you carry a know-it-all, “I’m going to fix you” attitude into the relationship then fix the attitude or don’t be a mentor. If you can see yourself a servant to the protégé, simply make the offer and let the protégé decide. If you find the relationship is not working, discontinue the mentoring relationship and find another protégé.
I believe we all have a responsibility to freely give back as mentors to future generations. And, I believe we all have the responsibility to be life-long learners. Look for more in future posts regarding various aspects of mentoring.
What will be your next step related to mentoring?