What is a Mentor?
A Comprehensive Guide
What is a mentor and why do you need one?
A mentor is someone who can help you achieve your goals and provide invaluable support. Whether the goal is academic, life, or career-based, a mentoring relationship can benefit any person.
Mentors know when to support, motivate, and give guidance—because that’s what mentoring is all about.
You can use a mentor to help consult you on career, relationship, or academic decisions, especially if you are indecisive.
A good mentor may amplify your vision, elevate your skills and self-confidence, and help you achieve your goals at a much faster rate.
Do you think a mentoring relationship may be right for you or someone you know?
In this study guide, you will learn about what a mentor is and the concept of mentoring. You will also read about the roles mentors play, what to expect, and the factors that make a good mentor. The guide will include information from both a mentee’s perspective and from the point of view of a mentor.
What Is a Mentor from a Mentee’s Perspective
As someone in search of a mentor, you may be wondering what exactly their role will be once you find one. The mentor and mentee relationship is a special one. The mentor can take on various roles at once in order to help the mentee.
What is the role of a mentor?
It is important to have a clear picture of what a mentor does and does not. Instead of making assumptions or having certain expectations, learn about the role of a mentor before you jump into a program.
- Mentors take your vision seriously.
- They help you identify your long and short-term education, social, life, or career goals.
- They make time for you.
- They help you set the bar high.
- They inspire you.
- Introduce you to contacts and widen your connections.
- They support you.
- They share their knowledge and life experiences.
- They provide guidance and advice.
- They help you strategize and plan to achieve your goals.
- They help develop your leadership skills.
- They guide you to the corporate culture.
- They help provide exposure and visibility in the corporate world or the industry.
- They help develop your strong values both for personal and professional development.
- They help you make hard decisions.
- They give you tips and insights.
- They help you navigate your career or life in general.
- They establish mutual trust and respect.
- They maintain confidentiality; they are a trusted advocate.
- They focus on your development.
- They are open to communication at all times.
- They help increase your confidence.
- They help increase the chances of a promotion at work.
What they don’t do:
- They don’t push their personal agenda on you.
- They help you to achieve your goal; but ultimately your success is your responsibility.
- They don’t take credit for your ideas, achievements, and success.
- They don’t slow down your progress.
- They don’t let you repeat the same mistakes.
- A mentor is not a therapist; however, they may advise on both professional and personal situations.
- A mentor is not the solution to a problem or challenges; they help you find solutions instead.
- Mentors do not take over your responsibilities.
- They do not force you to go in a specific direction; they will guide you to get to where you want to be.
- They do not use undue influence.
- They do not judge or condemn; if you make mistakes, they help you.
What makes a good mentor?
“A good mentor offers directions and driving tips from the backseat. You still have to drive the car.”
- Effective mentoring can make a big difference in your life and career. A good mentor may guide, assist, and help without hovering or putting on pressure—like a backseat driver. Good mentors lead by example. As a role model, they should walk the walk and talk the talk.
- The mentor and mentee relationship should be founded on trust—just like a friend. If trust is absent, benefits will not be had by being mentored. A good mentor should be able to earn and keep trust. This happens by being consistent, reliable, and committed. By giving you their time and attention, along with being kind, a mentor can develop a rapport with others.
- Mentors do not inhibit a mentee’s capacity to think for themself. While a mentor may guide a mentee toward a conclusion or action, a good mentor lets a mentee think and decide for themself. There may be a time in which a mentee asks their mentor for guidance and advice, but a good mentor helps their mentee come to their own conclusions.
- A role of a good mentor is to be a good listener. They do not take over conversations and monopolize situations. What better way to guide you and elevate your vision than by listening to you, your questions, feedback, your thoughts, and opinions.
- They encourage you to take action and take risks. A good mentor’s role is to know when to push you and when to hold back. They know when to advise you to act on your goals and cheer you on.
- Good mentors do not criticize. They point out your mistakes or a potential error by giving constructive feedback. This may help you to modify your behavior and to be successful next time.
- They support and provide guidance as well as facilitate. A good mentor will support your endeavors and facilitate connections and potential networking. They share their knowledge and experiences so you can carve your own mark in the industry.
- Good mentors encourage independence and individual development. They provide every opportunity for you to learn through activities so you can prepare yourself to be independent.
- They take pride in your success. A good mentor should want your success and well-being in mind. When you achieve your goals, they do not take credit for it or steal the limelight. A mentor and mentee may work together, but a mentee’s success is their own.
Question to Ponder: Do I need a mentor or a coach?
Mentors and coaches share the same skill requirements although their process of teaching and the outcome can be quite different. The role along with other details of a mentor vs coach can be confusing—review the table below to learn more.
|Length of Relationship||Usually short-term with a specific outcome in mind. Mostly a one-time thing but can be extended.||It tends to be long-term. Usually, one year or two or can be longer.|
|Focus||More formal and performance-driven.||Non-formal and development-driven. Uses both a professional and holistic approach to career development.|
|Structure||Very traditional – scheduled weekly or monthly meetings||Informal meetings (as needed)|
|Goal(s)||Set by both Coach and Coachee||Set by Mentee with the Mentor’s support|
|Outcome||Specific, measurable outcome – improvement in performance or achieving a milestone at work.||The overall development of Mentee.|
When to Get a Coach
- When you need to develop your raw talent into specific skills you can use to advance at work
- Learning professional development skills
- When you are struggling to achieve your goals or not meeting expectations at work
- When you need assistance in large-scale goals like acquisitions and mergers, managing teams, adapting to new company culture
- When you are preparing for advancement in the organization
- When you need short-term lessons like overcoming fear of public speaking or presentations
- When you need one-on-one coaching for a specific skill instead of joining group training
When to Get a Mentor
- When you need to focus on your career goals or life development in general
- When you need to improve your professional and general leadership development
- When you need to explore your career possibilities
- When you are in-between goals and not sure what to do next
- When you want to learn and have more experience professionally
- When you want to broaden your intercultural or cross-cultural ties and connections
- When you are planning your climb to the corporate ladder
Does everyone need a mentor?
Having a mentor is never required but may be highly recommended if you are able to find programs that offer them. Every person might benefit in having at least one mentor in their lifetime. Life is easier when you have someone looking out for you, right?
It is sometimes hard to reach your full potential when you do it alone. Success is achieved more quickly when you have a support person that is cheering you on and guiding you all the way. A mentor may be just the person you need.
Having a mentor is a great way to soak up wisdom and great life lessons that they provide and that you can use on your way up.
A mentor’s help and assistance can be used in all aspects of life. From simple decisions to life-changing ones; the role of a mentor may be to offer guidance to their special person during these times.
Here are scenarios in which a person may need a mentor’s guidance:
- When starting a job: Starting a job can be scary especially when you are just out of college. Having a mentor who can show you the ropes and introduce you to others in the office is a must. Getting comfortable with your transition is easier when a mentor is involved.
- When starting an investment or business venture: Anything that is novel or foreign to us can be intimidating. A guiding hand is always welcome. You might want someone around who has been there and done that to guide you. You might want to pick a mentor’s expert brain and soak up their knowledge and experience.
- When you are confused and indecisive: You don’t want others to decide major life decisions for you. If you are able, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to help you focus and figure things out?
- When you need direction in your career: Sometimes we get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives and daily career routine. We sometimes forget where we are heading. A mentor will be able to remind you of your career development goals and to help keep you focused.
- When you are afraid to take risks: No pain, no gain, right? What if you are not the adventurous type? If you love playing it safe, you might need someone to push you and nudge you in the right direction.
- When you lack confidence: In and out of the workplace, you should move forward with confidence. If you lack confidence and it is affecting your advancement opportunities, getting a mentor may be your best move.
What should I expect from my mentor?
You now should have a clear picture about what the role of a mentor is as well as what the role is not.
Mentorship is an informal relationship. Due to this, it is important to discuss what you expect from your mentor and what specific role they will play in your path to success. This person will be a major part of your personal development. You want to ensure that you both are on the same page regarding expectations.
Your expectations can be set by considering your goals, you and your mentor’s time and schedule, your mentor’s experience, and their current responsibilities.
Here are some of the things you can expect from your mentor:
- Gain wisdom from their knowledge, expertise, experience, skills, and values
- Grow personally and professionally
- Learn skills that you can use for your advancement
- Improve in key areas like interpersonal skills, communication, leadership skills, technical abilities, and others
A few example questions to ask yourself when seeking a mentor when thinking about expectations:
- How often do I want to meet with them?
- What specific role or function do I want them to play in my life?
- What goals do I want them to assist me with?
- What boundaries do we need to initially set?
- Will I be working with others or solely my mentor
- When will our time with each other be complete
What are the qualities of a good mentor?
Choosing the right mentor is critical. You need to find someone who will have a genuine interest in you and your success.
Here are some qualities you should look for:
- Genuine desire to help, guide, and impart knowledge
- Willingness to share their knowledge, skills, expertise, and life experiences
- A good role model
- Positive attitude
- Takes a personal interest in you and in mentoring in general
- Experience in the field or industry you are interested in
- Vast experience and knowledge and still continue to learn
- Provide constructive feedback
- Respected by colleagues and others in the same industry and in the community
- Respects and values the opinion of others
Being aware of these qualities will help you to identify a great mentor.
What types of mentors are there and how to spot the one you need?
Knowing what type of mentor to look for is important in achieving your goals. It will increase the chances that your mentor-mentee relationship will be a good fit.
The role of a traditional mentor fits the mold of the “stereotypical mentor” you may hear about. An older, wiser, more experienced, and successful within the company, industry, or community.
There is nothing wrong with a traditional mentor. While others may need one, you may decide that you need a different type.
A reverse mentor is somewhat opposite to the traditional mentor. However, the role of a reverse mentor can be just as effective as the traditional type.
These younger mentors get to work with older mentees.
An example of this would be using a mentor who is very tech-savvy to assist others who are not. This person would be paired up with an older individual who is behind in their technical skills. This is a common occurrence in the workplace, as technology continues to advance.
A peer mentor is someone in more or less the same level position or responsibility as the mentee within a company or in the community.
Their role is to help others learn new skills or knowledge in their specific area of expertise.
Peer mentors are easy to approach and can be developed organically within organizations. An example of this is when a supervisor notices an employee lacking confidence in an area. They may pair this person up with someone who is more knowledgeable in that area to assist them. The mentee will then increase their skill set by working with their colleague.
These mentors are people you look up to: successful people in the industry, in the community, or colleagues in your company that you idolize.
These can also be popular and successful people that you do not know personally nor interact with, but look up to. These can be authors, famous personalities, etc. who inspire you to work hard and do better.
A practical mentor is someone you can count on to give you straightforward, no-nonsense advice when you have problems. The role of these mentors does not aim to inspire but to be realistic and practical.
Practical mentors are a great support in life because they call it as it is. They give pragmatic advice that you can apply right away to situations at work or at home.
Examples of practical mentors could be a family member, a neighbor, or an old friend.
What is a mentor who helps you cope? These are people who are good listeners who can give pragmatic advice that you can use right away to alleviate stress. The role of a coping mentor is to help you cope with stress and other problems professionally and personally.
They can offer a safe space to vent and express your frustrations without the fear of being judged
Examples of a coping mentor could be a trusted colleague, a good friend, or a religious professional.
These are individuals who stand out in a specific identity group.
- Women leaders
- LGBT leaders
- Other successful leaders that belong in a specific group
You look up to an identity mentor when you want to learn to fit within the group or community. The role of an identity mentor can be to offer advice in dealing with frustrations or navigating your career. As someone who belongs in the same identity group as you, this mentor can connect with you on a deeper level.
How many mentors can a person have?
There is no rule that says you can have only one mentor. In fact, we encourage you to have more depending on your needs and goals.
Mentoring relationships are dynamic and fluid. They change as your needs, goals, and experiences change. Sometimes one mentor cannot cover all aspects of your life that need help and guidance.
There is no perfect number. Get as many mentors as you need. If you need to get all types of mentors mentioned above, go for it!
You’d be lucky if you find someone that can be your “all-around mentor.”
What Is a Mentor from a Mentor’s Perspective
As a mentor or an aspiring mentor, you need to know the difference between mentoring and coaching. Coaching is a short-term teaching opportunity that is formal and more focused. Mentoring is an informal relationship that is focused on the overall development of an individual.
What motivates you to be one?
Mentoring is not for everyone. It is a huge commitment and a bigger responsibility. You must be an exemplary person to want to be a part of a mentoring program.
Here are some factors that motivate people to want to become a mentor:
- To share knowledge
- To inspire people
- To meet new people
- To mold the younger generation
- To help, guide, and motivate
- To have a wider impact on society
- To offer perspective and gain new ones
- To be part of someone’s success
What are the 3C’s of mentorship?
Mentoring someone else involves these three roles:
- CONSULTANT – You are chosen as a mentor mostly because of your knowledge and experience. You act as a consultant when your mentee is making major steps and decisions. Share your insights. Your mentee picks your brain and relies on your expertise so they can make better decisions.
- COUNSELOR – Listen and guide. A mentor does not tell the mentee what to do. They help the mentee figure out what they want and help them do it right. The mentor’s role is critical in the important decision-making process of the mentee.
- CHEERLEADER – A good mentor stays in the background, coaching, guiding, and helping, but never overpowering. The mentor’s support and trust in the mentee’s capabilities are vital. They must be the mentee’s number one cheerleader and support system.
What are the responsibilities of a mentor?
Mentoring is a serious responsibility. It is important that you are clear on what you need to do in this relationship.
- Set time and space for the mentoring sessions
- Always be prepared for mentoring sessions
- Communicate thoroughly
- Give your full attention
- Share your resources, knowledge, and expertise
- Be a teacher, coach, sponsor, protector, role model and counselor
How to be a successful mentor?
The best measure for mentoring success is achieving the goals your mentee has set at the beginning of the relationship. However, success means something different to each person. What may look like success to one person may not to another. The mentee and mentor need to communicate about what success looks like to them.
Did they get the promotion they have been aiming for?
Did they become a better sales professional or a better person?
Did they complete their graduate courses successfully?
The following are some ways in which mentoring success can be measured:
- Goal completion
- Improvement of mentees overall development
- New skills acquired
- The overall success of the mentee
What are the four main stages of mentoring?
- Receive the first contact from your mentee and exchange contact information
- Get to know each other
- Talk about developmental and learning goals
- Set expectations and limitations
- Defined desired outcome
- Explore possibilities
- Setting ground rules and boundaries
- Setting learning and developmental goals
- Agree on confidentiality
- Setting responsibilities
- Setting schedules for mentoring sessions
3. ENABLING GROWTH
- Providing support to the mentee
- Guiding, helping, assisting, counseling, cheering, etc.
- Correcting mistakes
- Adjusting or setting new goals
4. COMING TO CLOSURE
- Identifying learning and growth
When should you end a mentoring relationship?
There are two reasons why mentoring should end:
- When you are no longer able to perform your mentor duties
- When your mentee ends the relationship for whatever reason
- When you no longer see eye to eye with your mentee
- When your mentee has achieved their goals
- When the mentee has become independent
- When the mentee is ready to stand on their own
- When you have completed your role
What is a mentor’s contribution to the mentee’s success is very significant. Mentorship cannot be underrated. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages. In fact, if the mentoring relationship is a good fit, there is hardly any disadvantage.
The main focus and purpose of mentoring is to help your mentee succeed. Wayahead provides a platform for mentees and mentors to meet and establish a good relationship. You can skip all the how to’s, the when, and the what.
Download our app and sign up for our mentor-mentee program. We will do the work for you. All you have to do is sign up and tell us what you are looking for.
Save time and start your mentoring program now! For inquiries and questions, call us at (757) 204 1058 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.