When I think of my mentors, I automatically think of two very important women in my life. The first was a childhood horseback riding instructor, and the second was my high school DECA advisor. At first, it’s hard for me to put a finger on why these two individuals had such a profound impact on my life. I have had plenty of incredible teachers and role models in my life, but what separates these two as mentors?
At their core, mentors are our most trusted and experienced advisers or guides. More often than not, this is an informal title granted to mentors by their mentees. The best mentors meet our unique and specific needs with meaningful offers. Different mentors give us different things that we need to really grow. For me, those things were:
- Investment – both of these women dedicated more time and energy to me than was required by their job descriptions. When I wanted to be more involved and challenged, they created opportunities for me to do so.
- Knowledge – these women are incredibly experienced and knowledgeable. More importantly, they were willing and skilled in sharing that experience and knowledge.
- Critical Conversations – both of these women had critical feedback conversations with me that I haven’t forgotten to this day. They were some of the most important turning points in my development as a person.
- Support – these women were there through thick and thin. They were there to help me recover and learn from failure, but also to celebrate in my successes.
- Connection – I was able to stay connected to these women in meaningful ways that continued to develop our relationships even after they were no longer my instructor or adviser.
In the last few years, I have found myself in a position where I have been considered a mentor. Our organization offers a formal mentorship program to staff members and since it’s beginning, I have worked with three mentees. I have regarded this as a huge responsibility. Over the course of eight months, my role is to help guide these team members through an process of self-discovery and personal development. And I believe that I have learned just as much, if not more, through these experiences, as my mentees. Some of the key things I have learned and am still learning about mentorship are:
- Mentorship is individualized. Unlike training, which by nature is standardized, mentorship caters to the individuals we work with. It’s important for mentors to consider the unique needs of our mentees and be able to adapt their process, help, or advice to meet those specific needs.
- Mentorship is a long term commitment. The title of mentor isn’t earned for sharing a single piece of sage advice. Mentors walk with us on our journeys through life and have an impact because of their commitment over time.
- Mentorship is about facilitation, and facilitation is about making something easier. Whether that something is resume building or accountability, mentors help their mentees to accomplish their goals by helping to guide them through challenges.
I believe that mentorship opportunities are important because these quality relationships enhance our opportunities for success personally and professionally. At the most basic level, they give us concrete knowledge, skills, and resources. But, they also stimulate our growth in soft skill and character development in ways that we might not get through other relationships or opportunities. These relationships are influential and impactful. We should be seeking mentorship while also striving to be effective mentors for others.
Some of the most important mentors we will have in our lives are our peer mentors. These mentors are our friends and colleagues who we look to and can rely on for growth, responsibility, and engagement. The model below illustrate these three key purposes of a peer mentor:
Peer mentorship is really all about friends helping friends to be better. Think about the ways that you can or fulfill these three purposes with your peers:
- Growth – helping individuals and organizations to grow together
- What are the ways you can be helping your team to grow?
- Engagement – sharing and empowering involvement and achievement
- What are the ways you can empower your friends to be successful?
- Responsibility – it’s just your responsibility to say or do something when needed
- What is something that maybe needs to be addressed among your group because it is harmful, dangerous, or unethical?
*Meet the Author*
Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.