The Unaware Mentor

It is important to understand that a mentor is not a ‘molder of clay’; he or she does not attempt to create a clone of themselves.

Some of the people that have had the greatest impact on my career may not even know it. I’m sure that at some time in your life, you’ve been provided with quiet guidance by someone who you respected, looked up to and felt comfortable sharing your personal challenges. Though you both may not have been thinking about it at the time, you were entering into a mentoring period of your lives.

Some mentoring is part of a formal organizational program, where the roles responsibilities of the mentor and mentee are clearly defined. There are specific goals and objectives that are set within a specified period of time. Outside of formal mentoring programs, we often seek out others that take on a mentoring role to guide us through problems and issues we may be having at work or within our personal lives.

The Lint Center for National Security Studies notes that:

“It is important to understand that a mentor is not a ‘molder of clay’; he or she does not attempt to create a clone of themselves, but rather to serve as a role model and source of inspiration, information and experience from which the mentee can select qualities most likely to help him or her achieve success. Neither is the mentee a subordinate of the mentor. Mentors exercise caution when suggesting developmental tasks to ensure that the mentee’s immediate supervisor has been consulted and that any projects likely to require time away from the job have the approval and support of the supervisor. Ideally, the mentor provides guidance, support, and encouragement, and the mentee responds positively by learning and applying new skills and knowledge in ways that optimize success within the organization.”

As we go through life, it’s important to realize that we will all be called on to fulfill both roles of mentor and mentee. As a mentor, it is an honor and privilege to help those who are in need of our assistance. Mentors are people who have achieved professional success, acquired self-confidence, experienced professional satisfaction, and wish to share their experiences with a junior or less experienced individual.

As a mentee, we are encouraged in knowing that we are not alone in our struggles and that there are those in this world that really care about our success and well-being.

And though we may not be aware of it, we are all empowered to positively affect others’ lives. This cuts both ways, as others impact our lives in a positive way — and they may never know it.

Pretty neat how that works.