Mentor Me, Please!

Nancy Anderson
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When Odysseus went off on to fight the Trojan War, he entrusted his young son, Telemachus, to his trusted friend and counselor, Mentor. Mentor’s job was to guide and instruct Telemachus in his father’s absence. From this first pairing of a counselor with someone less experienced, mentoring has grown in every area of life and business. It can be an informal relationship or more structured and directed in a corporate setting. Finding a mentor who is willing to guide and nurture you is invaluable in your personal and professional growth. The mentoring process is as varied as those who participate, but in all relationships, there are some basic guidelines that will help both parties get the most benefit from the relationship.

1. Pick the right mentor. A mentor is a role model—someone who is where you would like to be some day. They hold the job you aspire to, have achieved things you dream of achieving or are living the life you desire. Approaching someone to be your mentor can be difficult. Some just sort of happen, due to working relationships, mutual interests or backgrounds. Some develop from a desire to develop potential or help steer someone in the right direction.
2. Respect your Mentor’s time. Having a mentor isn’t the same as having a BFF. Constantly texting, emailing and phoning your mentor can sour the relationship early on. Work out a mutually agreeable method of communication and meeting times.
3. Keep expectations realistic. Your mentor may know everyone in your field, but she isn’t responsible for making sure you make the right connections and lock in your next career move. Mentors help mentees realize their potential, overcome obstacles to success and work out a plan for growth.
4. Understand their role. A mentor isn’t a substitute parent or therapist. They aren’t a dumping ground for all your personal problems or a dating service. While you may learn a lot about life choices, decision making, ethics and integrity, the outcome of your actions are up to you.
5. Take their counsel seriously. A mentor’s value lies in her honesty and genuine desire to help you succeed. They serve as a mirror to reveal those shortcomings or areas that need improvement. Rejecting their ideas or being unwilling to even consider making some changes is a waste of their time and yours. Giving good feedback goes both ways. Be willing to try something new, and then discuss the outcomes.
6. Pay it forward. You will someday be in a position to become a mentor yourself. When approached by a younger version of you, remember what it was like to ask for help and be willing to assume the role.
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By Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at, and on the web at

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