The Ins and Outs of Having and/or Being a Mentor
by Chris King
self-help tape I've heard and every book I've read on how to become a
success - and there are many of both - suggest finding a mentor. What
is a mentor? What is a mentor's role? Where do I find one? Should I become
one? Should I have only one mentor? What should I expect from a mentor?
In this article, I will tackle some of these tough questions.
What is a mentor and what is a mentor's role? I decided to look mentor
up in the dictionary and found the succinct descriptions: "trusted
counselor or guide," "a wise, loyal advisor," and "a
teacher or coach." I feel the operative words here are "trusted,"
"wise" and "loyal." We have all had mentors in our
lives, but not always considered them to be a mentor. A mentor may have
been a parent, who was more than a parent; a teacher who was more than
a teacher; a coach, who was more than a coach; a friend, who was more
than a friend.
back, I realize how lucky I have been to have had the mentors I had.
My father was my first mentor. He was not only wise, trusted and loyal,
he believed in me and my potential. He made me realize the value of giving
my very best to every project. In school, I had a few teachers who went
far beyond being teachers by spending extra time and effort with those
of us who tried. In college, my advisor showed such obvious joy in my
accomplishments, I had to do well for her sake, as well as my own. Think
back about the people who have been mentors to you. I would add a few
more words to the definition. I feel that a mentor is a lot more than
a counselor, guide, teacher, or coach. A true mentor cares and is someone
who believes in you so much that he or she causes you to believe in yourself.
Where do I find a mentor? There is that old saying that "when
the student is ready, the teacher appears." If we decide we need
a mentor now and then actively seek one, so often we will be disappointed
because we are trying too hard. On the other hand, if we remain open and
giving of our time and expertise to others, we will be surprised by how
many mentor opportunities appear. In the year 2001 my goal was to grow
my new website design business - not the most advantageous time for Information
knew very few people in this field until I attended an all day entrepreneurial
seminar in February and was seated next to the IT guru who has become
my mentor. He has helped me and my business more than any amount of PR,
marketing or selling could possibly have done.
might also consider adopting some "external mentors of influence"
- people you don't actually know in person, but by whom you are duly impressed.
These are teachers from the past and present whom you want to emulate.
For example, one of my "external mentors of influence" is Tony
Robbins. Even though I don't know him personally, I have attended one
of his fire-walking seminars (yes, I did walk across those hot coals),
have read his books and have listened to all of his tapes. When I need
an extra boost or the answer to a question, I pop in a tape. Another suggestion
is to pick an "external mentor of influence" from the past.
A lot of people use Benjamin Franklin. Just say to yourself, "Now
how would old Ben handle this situation?"
It is important that the mentor-mentee relationship is satisfying to
both people involved. If you find someone you would like to have as
a mentor, ask him or her if they are willing. If they back out gracefully,
or just say, "No," accept the answer graciously and without
devastation. If you are accepted as a mentee, make sure that you know
the ground rules - what you both expect from the relationship. If your
mentor suggests that you make certain changes to push yourself to a new
level, will you be willing to follow those suggestions? Being a mentor
can be satisfying and exhilarating as long as you feel that your mentee
is giving it his or her "all." If, however, you begin to feel
drained and/or manipulated, it is time to bow out.
recently became involved in a mentor-mentee situation where the young
man I was meeting with on a regular basis gave me the impression
that he was "using" my talents, abilities and knowledge to advance
his career rather than trying to develop his own talents, abilities and
knowledge. The minute I started to feel this way, I suggested that we
not meet so often. We have remained friends and now see each other once
in awhile for fun. I feel strongly that as long as both of you feel that
your relationship is beneficial, keep it up; but once it isn't good for
one and/or both of you, have the guts to move on.
So, ask yourself the following questions. Who have been my best
mentors over the years? Is there someone I would like to have as a mentor
now? Is there someone I would like to mentor now? What external mentor
of influence would I want to emulate and learn from? When and how will
I start on my mentor quest?
The time is now! Try it - you will be glad you did!
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