ACCORDING TO MERRIAM-WEBSTER, a mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.
While we all might have a good understanding of the basic definition of a mentor as noted above, the question is do you understand the value of a mentor for your personal career path? And have you considered the value of being a mentor yourself?
Mentoring adds value regardless of your age. Whether you are at the beginning of your career, or you’re well established, having a mentor can add immense value to your everyday experiences. When you think about developing your own personal mentor plan, keep in mind that mentoring should be an integral part of your life throughout the length of your career.
With that in mind, I would also like to put forth a deeper definition that delves into the three types of mentors:
Traditional Mentors: These can be found through structured programs that set up pairings and provide resources and guidelines, or can be found outside of a program. It’s possible to be a mentor in one relationship and a mentee in another relationship. The value of these relationships can be the exchange of knowledge and advice.
Silent Mentors: These are the people in your life you look to and model your behavior or career after, but they may not know they’re impacting your career. You can also think of these people as role models, whether it’s Oprah Winfrey or Tom in the cube next to you. The value of these mentors is in the examples they provide to you. And do not discount the value of seeing something done the wrong way.
Angel Mentor: These are people who support you and advocate for you without being a formal mentor you meet with on a regular basis; they can be a former mentor, a boss, former boss or even a peer. Sometimes you might not even be aware of all they do on your behalf. The value of these mentors is in the doors they open and the opportunities they provide.
You should strive to have mentors in all three categories throughout the length of your career. As you look for opportunities to incorporate mentors in your life, do not discount the one-off opportunities that will come your way. They can still be of immense value.
A good mentor pairing offers value to both the mentor and the mentee. The fact that advice can flow in either direction regardless of age has even coined a new term: reverse mentoring, where the mentor in the relationship is the younger of the two in the pairing. Whatever method you use to find a mentor, as long as you incorporate one into your career path, you will go further and get more out of the experiences.
Let me know about your mentoring experiences; tweet me at @mnmeetingsmag to tell me your thoughts.
Julie Ann Schmidt, CMP, CMM, is the founder of the Global Emerging Leaders Community (GEL). GEL is a one-stop shop for all things in the industry geared towards emerging leaders. The organization is a portal that gives emerging leaders with zero to seven years in the industry help to embark on their career path.