What is a mentor? The concept can seem mystical, confusing and overwhelming. Does having a mentor mean that you have to sit down for an hour long meeting twice a week and share notes every day by email?
Not at all. Mentorship is not always a structured relationship. In fact, it may not always have the label of MENTORING. In some cases, it is a fluid, almost disguised process of information sharing.
Mentoring generally involves someone with more experience or different experience sharing his or her knowledge with you. However, a mentor is getting something out of the relationship too - mentoring is mutually beneficial.
The best mentors are always learning and will gain just as much from YOU through the give and take of your relationship (Tweet this).
Types of Mentoring
It is important to remember that mentors and mentorship will not always look the same. In some cases, mentorship is a “one-way street”. Blogs, books and conferences may never give you one-on-one interaction, but can still provide you the mentorship you require. Mentorship can be a one-time thing or an ongoing, long-term relationship. Do not discount the opportunity to gain knowledge just because it does not fit your idea of what mentoring is.
Identifying Potential Mentors
If you are lucky enough to have that one-on-one mentor, what people may fill that role? Here are a few examples:
An Industry Expert – A guru, or someone well-known in your field, this could be the person you hope to become in a few years.
Client or Customer – Learning from your customers is often an indirect relationship, but you can gain fresh industry insight straight from the source.
Manager – As stated in a Wharton University article on the topic, “Some employees may find that the best mentors are their managers—whether they call them mentors or not.” Mentoring in the workplace might be the most impactful since it is ongoing and directly relevant to your skills and projects.
Peers – Learning from someone around the same skill or experience level is a challenge, but the valuable insight is often unmatched.
Implementing Good Advice
The most important thing to anyone looking for mentoring is to open your mind. Consider these tips for implementing advice and finding mentorship—both one-on-one and in non-traditional forms.
Identify Existing Mentors – Who already exists in your life as a mentor? What type of teacher are they and what experience to they have to share?
Look for New Things to Learn – Actively search for new pieces of advice that could be hiding beneath the surface of conversation. Don’t miss great instruction because you aren’t listening.
Ask Questions – Ask thoughtful questions and listen to the answers.
Apply What You’ve Learned – It’s easy enough to say, but harder to do. When you learn something, do it. Make things happen.
Expand Your Mentor Network – Look for individuals who have information about different subjects or knowledge in various industries. When you do this, you can build a network of knowledgeable people who can make things happen.
Once you know what you are looking for, you will realize that mentors are more common than you may think—even if they do not come in the shape that you would always expect. Work with those around you to develop a mentor network and make sure that everyone in your workplace or even your field has access to high-level mentorship.
Keep your eyes peeled for voracious learners and learn with them. (Tweet this)
Would you like to learn more about the options that exist for you? Check out the our Apprenticeship Manifesto to learn more about mentoring and how apprenticeship is another form of continuous learning. We would love to help equip you with the skills you need to take today’s workplace by storm.