Monday, June 30, 2008

What the heck is mentoring?

I’m hoping this topic will raise a few questions/objections/cheers. As well, it will be a multiple-part post because it’s a big question.

Assertions on mentoring:

#1 - Mentoring is the other side of networking.
#2 - You can possibly network without being deliberately involved in mentoring (giving or receiving) BUT you can’t be involved in mentoring without being committed to networking.
#3 - Mentoring is not:
· having someone find you a job.
· the same as workplace coaching.
· a casual relationship
#4 - Mentoring is a key component of your personal ‘brand’
#5 - Mentoring and networking are vital to any person doing anything at which they want to excel.

(Wait till we get to the networking assertions! Send me yours now?)

For any industry or company, mentoring can:
· attract the brightest individuals with more than the lure (or lack) of salary
· ensure people are able to find their areas of strength, building personal satisfaction
· potentially bring people together as a dynamic group within that industry or event
· open doors to people and knowledge and opportunities

At the individual level, mentoring is:

  • A one/one relationship to help expand knowledge or experience or understanding of a particular issue or area or industry

That is a formal, well-known approach we all value.

The first question to ask yourself is: what am I really asking for when I want help or advice?

Basically start by asking yourself if you are looking for the old-style ‘apprentice’ or for the newer approach of mentoring. Some folks don’t differentiate.

Apprenticing - and Trump has made this famous - you find a successful sponsor who will teach you everything they know. You follow in their footsteps till you either have their job or have enough whatever to build your own path.

When folks used to look for a mentor, that’s what was in mind. It’s a method that has been around for hundreds of years and has produced some great artists, leaders and contributors. Apprenticing today can have many names: protégée, intern, or placement. It focuses on the successes of the mentor who brings the protégée along.

Mentoring the way I see it puts the work back on you - the mentoree. You own your actions and decisions at all times. You choose -or don’t - to take the advice or challenges given to you by your mentor. You’re answerable to no one but yourself on your progress. (like an independent study)

You might have several mentors across different areas of your life at one time. You might have more than one mentor simultaneously. You may be in a formal program. You might do it through an organization or association. You might do it just by asking someone to mentor you.

Either way you control the process and you decide the type of information and advice you seek. This pulls mentoring beyond the realm of your particular industry and allows you to seek best-practice folks wherever they are to be found.

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