Many women feel isolated in their efforts to advance in their careers, learn the skills they need to accomplish their goals, and become the person they want to be. In this episode we’ll talk about one solution: finding a mentor. We’ll look at what mentoring is, what the benefits are (on both sides), how to find mentors, and some guidelines for successful mentoring relationships.
Intentional Relationships Through Mentoring
Studies show that people who are mentored professionally make more money and achieve more in their careers. In our personal life, a mentor can help us grow spiritually, learn a new skill, and develop into the person we want to be. But mentors can be hard to find, and women apparently have a hard time asking for mentorship.
What is a Mentor?
The dictionary defines a mentor as “an experienced and trusted advisor.” The modern version of mentoring is much more than just a wise older person guiding a younger novice. What a mentor is not is a person who will make your career (or personal growth) happen. We are responsible for our own growth and development, but a mentor can help us learn the skills and traits we need, and help point the way to our desired destination.
In her book How to Be a Christian without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community, Kelly Bean talks about different kinds or categories of mentors: direct mentors (people in our lives who have a positive influence on us), indirect mentors (people we don’t know but who’ve influenced us through their writings, art, or music), and horizontal mentors (close friends with whom we share deeply on a mutual and reciprocal level). She also talks about finding those people in our live to whom we have something to offer of our own knowledge and experience.
Why Would You Need a Mentor?
We most often think of mentorship in a professional setting, but mentors can also help us grow personally, emotionally, or spiritually; a mentor can help us learn the important skills we need as wives, mothers, homemakers, or teach us specific skills or interest areas (gardening? sewing? public speaking? leadership? time management?). Any area in which you want to learn and grow is a potential area for mentorship.
What Are the Benefits of Mentoring Relationships?
For the one being mentored:
- The opportunity to draw upon another person’s knowledge and experiences
- Development of our skills, including communication skills, and confidence
- The chance to gain a new perspective and learn to see things from a different point of view
- Feeling heard
- Enlarging your circle of friends
For the mentor:
- The satisfaction of giving back and contributing both to one woman’s success and growth and also to the advancement and increase of women in your group or organization
- Enhancement of your own skills as you teach them to another woman
- The chance to gain a new perspective and learn to see things from another point of view
- Enlarging your circle of friends
How Do You Find a Mentor?
- There are many organizations and programs that will train mentors and match them with “mentees” (note: I am not affiliated with these organizations, nor have I investigated them or their programs, so this should not be considered an endorsement of any of them; I just offer them as some examples of organizations I found by a search online)
- Be proactive about the process (find more info and great suggestions in “If You Think You don’t Need a Mentor, Think Again” or one of the other articles in the reference section below)
- Evaluate yourself and determine what skills you want to develop.
- Find a person who has those skills (you might need to expand your network) and ask her!
- Think bigger and deeper about the concept of mentoring. It’s not just what you can get by being mentored; it’s also about giving back on many levels. And it’s not about finding a single person who will teach you the secrets of life. Check out Kelly Bean’s book, How to Be a Christian without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community, for the approach and process she describes in Chapter 5. (I’m not trying to proselytize you. Even if you have no interest in faith matters, her discussion about mentoring is helpful and worth the price of the book.)
A Few Guidelines for a Successful Mentoring Relationship
- Know what you want, and communicate openly.
- Make a commitment to the relationship and the process.
- Establish rapport–the best mentoring relationships benefit both parties.
- Mentees: be humble and willing to learn.
- Have fun.
What do you think?
Have you had a mentor (or more than one) who’s made a positive impact on your life? How did you find her (or him)? How did the relationship work? Share your experiences, suggestions, or questions in the comments, or email me!
For More Information:
- “Can Women Succeed without a Mentor?,” Peggy Drexler, Forbes online 3/4/2014.
- “If You Think You Don’t Need a Mentor, Think Again,” Zinaida Lorenzo, Huff Post Women 7/10/2014.
- “Want to Earn More, Advance Further, and Stress Less?,” Diane Paddison, Today’s Christian Woman online 12/2014.
- “Mentoring Tips: 4 key questions to ask before you even begin the relationship,” Sherry Surratt, Today’s Christian Woman online 3/2014.
- “Where Mentoring Goes Wrong,” Sue Edwards & Barbara Neumann, Christianity Today online 1/27/2014.
- “5 Really Good Reasons You Should Consider Being a Mentor,” Patty Azzarello, TLNT, 8/21/2013.
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