There is no unique definition of the term mentor, since for every person being a mentor or having one means completely different things. According to the most common definition, a mentor is a person, who inspires, nurtures and motivates people. The relationships between a mentor and his mentee usually last for a long time and can be characterised by strong emotional connection (Zepeda, 1999).
Entering into mentor-mentee relationships can be beneficial in many ways. First of all, mentors are able to share their expertise and knowledge, which they have obtained on the way to their current position. This information is especially valuable, since it gives a personal insight into the industry and into the peculiarities of a particular career path. Mentee in this case can design his/her own life strategy, keeping in mind the steps, which have brought success to the mentor and avoiding those, which could harm his/her career. Secondly, it is also possible to benefit from having a mentor by gaining access to the extensive organizational network of the mentor. While under regular circumstances building connections takes a long time, mentors can introduce their mentees to the key people in the business or company, thus making networking easier and more effective.
The relationship between a mentor and a mentee undergoes several stages. In the first step it is necessary to find a mentor, who would be able to teach and inspire, as well who possesses the necessary expertise in a particular career path or industry segment. This stage can be conducted both formally and informally. Formal mentor programs are usually established by companies, where mentors are assigned to less experienced employees in order to ensure knowledge transfer in the company. Although this method is very effective, not all companies offer such an opportunity. In this case, it is necessary to look for a mentor informally (Kramer, 2010). Finding the right person is key to the success of mentor-mentee relationship, therefore it is important to find a person, who possess information and expertise in a specific field related to mentee’s career and personal growth. In some cases it is possible to consider several mentors, who can bring something different into various aspects of mentee’s professional life.
Secondly, a mentor should not be a direct supervisor, since this fact may be detrimental for trust relationships. Direct supervisors are usually responsible for one’s performance evaluation, therefore mentees will be reluctant to reveal sensitive information and to discuss openly all the problems. Since the success of having a mentor is strongly based on trust and full disclosure, immediate supervisors may not be the best choice for a mentor. It is also important to understand whether it is more beneficial to have a mentor, who belongs to the same organization, or an external one, who can give a different perspective. Another choice should be made between a mentor, who is at the same organizational level or the one, who is at a more advanced stage. The former can relate to mentee’s experience and to give targeted advice, however the latter is likely to possess a more extensive network and expertise (Barker, Sullivan & Emery, 2006).
Since the choice of the mentor can impact the future of one’s career, I believe it is necessary to make it very carefully and thoughtfully. In my opinion, it is important to know a person quite well before approaching him/her with a request to become a mentor, therefore networking events are not sufficient for finding a mentor. In my personal strategy of searching for a mentor I would not limit myself to one person only, because several mentors can give different perspectives and share different knowledge. First, I need to clearly define my career goals and then look for people, who have already achieved them. Once such people are found, it may be helpful to learn more about them before asking them to become mentors. Moreover, it is crucial to formulate clearly why I want to become their mentee and to demonstrate true commitment to the relationship. Only in this case will it be possible to convince people to become mentors and to show them the importance of this experience for me.
Barker, A. M., Sullivan, D. T., & Emery, M. J. (2006). Leadership competencies for clinical managers, the renaissance of transformational leadership. Sudbury, MA: Jones &
Kramer, M. W. (2010). Organizational socialization, joining and leaving organizations. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Zepeda, S. J. (1999). Staff development, practices that promote leadership in learning
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