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What is a Mentor? Mentor Definition.
What is a mentor? One of the definitions on mentor I like for its clarity comes from the Encarta dictionary, which reads a mentor is an experienced adviser and supporter; somebody, usually older and more experienced, who advises and guides a younger, less experienced person.
So, a mentor (or adviser, counselor, guide, tutor, teacher, guru) is defined as a knowledgeable person who holds vast experience and perspective in a particular area who is open to sharing his or her life experiences in order to advance the personal and professional growth of a younger person.
In essence, mentoring is a developmental partnership that offers you an outlet to use some of the incredible knowledge you have gathered throughout the years to benefit the growth of a younger person.
Sounds like something you want to try?
The keys to successful mentoring start with your answering 1) do you have a genuine interest in the development of other people? 2) what part of your life will you choose to share to help support someone else’s objectives? 3) is it a part of your life that you are passionate about? and 4) what stage in life should the young person be experiencing? (i.e. grade school, high school, undergrad, graduate or young professional).
What Makes a Good Mentor
Many people feel that being a good mentor requires special skills, but this is not true! Good mentors are simply people who have the qualities of good role models. They demonstrate model code of behavior through their own actions and words.
I have created a list of some of the qualities a good mentor and role model should own. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, reflect on whether you possess the below-described qualities of a good mentor.
A good mentor is:
Interested in helping others succeed. They have a genuine interest in other people’s lives and experience pleasure when helping others reach their goals.
Caring. They are empathetic, open, reliable and honest with others.
Willing to spend time. They reach out and share their life experiences to help others with their life journey.
Open to educate. They are able to pass on their knowledge, insights and expertise clearly, encouragingly and helpfully.
Patient. They offer help in finding life direction, never pushing.
Trustworthy. They are dependable people who understand the importance of keeping information shared strictly confidential.
Practical. They assist in setting goals, objectives and timeframes.
An active listener. They are listeners who are able to reflect back the relevant issues while minimizing their own personal assumptions and prejudices.
Inspirational. They aspire to excellence and encourage personal excellence in others.
Able to give advice. Mentors advise without explicitly dictating actions, allowing mentee to find his/he way.
Sensitive to people's feelings. They are able to provide constructive criticism as well as compliments.
Successful and admired. They are well respected in their organizations and in the community.
"How Can I Help You?" Questions Every Mentor Should Ask
Few bonds in life are more powerful than those between a mentor and mentee. We all have something to share and teach, but what if you are new to mentoring? How do you determine if you can help your mentee at all?
Ask these five questions to help you explore your skills and capabilities while getting a better grasp of your mentee's current situation.
1. What are you trying to be or do? This question will help you understand where your mentee is coming from and what they are aspiring to do. It will also help you understand WHY they want to learn or do something.
2. What are you struggling with? Ask them what is frustrating them; what they are struggling with. This will give you an idea of the obstacles they are facing that may prevent them from succeeding.
3. What do you think you are good at? What are you doing well that is helping you reach your goals? These questions help you understand what the mentee thinks his/her strengths are, what comes natural to them and what they may do better than others.
4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet these challenges? Pay close attention to this response. This will help you see if the mentee is willing to spend time on his/her developmental areas and not just what he/she is already excelling at. Ask yourself, "What are the priorities?", "What areas are they focusing on?", "Are they the right ones?","How open are they to refocusing on other tasks towards progress if they seem stuck?"
5. How can I help you? The answers to above questions should help you understand how you can help the mentee. Compare the answers to your skill set and together come up with a game plan to reach set goals and objectives.
Try asking these five questions the next time you meet with a prospective mentee or answer them yourself as a self-diagnostic of what you bring to the table. The answers can help you and your mentee put together a game plan for progress towards meeting set objectives.
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BOTTOM LINE FOR RETIREMENT PLANNING
Decide if mentoring is right for you. Sharing your expertise will enhance your quality of life and should be a part of your retirement planning.
ABOUT MAYRA REYES
Joy Compass is privileged to have Mayra Reyes as an expert blogger on the subject of mentoring.
Mayra Reyes is the associate director of administration for the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center and The Media Program at Columbia Business School. Her roles at Columbia primarily focus on communications and administration of various programs, including the School’s advising and mentoring programs for student entrepreneurs.
Prior to joining Columbia University, Mayra worked for the Center for Creative Leadership as a client liaison in support of its well-known leadership and creativity programs.
Mayra's hobbies include experimenting with new food recipes from Latin America, collecting independent films and interior decorating. She happily lives in Brooklyn Heights, New York with her little dog, Bobbi.
She holds a BA from Emmanuel College and an MS from Columbia University.
Mayra's Life Credo: Conscious thought creates reality.