WHAT IS MENTORING FOR MILLENNIALS?
It’s funny, through my career I’ve been mentored by many different people, I’ve mentored many in return and in the process I’ve never worried about how we define it, its simply been a great experience where I get as much as I give, regardless of my role as mentor or mentee. I find it ironic that the only time a definition of roles becomes an issue is when I talk about the concept of mentoring, not when I’m doing it.
Whether I’m talking with HR people in organizations or talking with academics in schools, they seem to have a very specific idea of what mentoring is and they seem to like to debate it at length, what is mentoring, vs. coaching, vs teaching, etc., it seems important to them. In my experience, it isn’t important in the moment, when we are doing it, the only thing that is important is that we are helping each other and both benefiting from it.
So I’ve come up with a simple definition of mentoring that works for me and also reflects the true nature of the experiences I’ve had. I define mentoring as simply helping someone else succeed. The most important aspect of mentoring to me is the servant attitude, I realized that mentoring is not about me and what I think I have to offer, its about the other person, its about being focused on helping them with their needs and making a difference for them. I realized it starts by truly and deeply listening and understanding the other person. Once I understand their goals and needs then I’m in a position to help them in whatever way is most appropriate. The one action that I believe is unique to mentoring is sponsoring, when I act as a reference for someone else and put my own reputation at risk for them. I’ve had many mentor relationships that have never reached that point, but the few that have are my closest relationships. Regardless, having the attitude of service and gratitude for being able to share the mentoring experience (regardless of my role) works much better for me and I feel I get much more than I give in doing so.