Previously discussed was the importance of mentoring, as well as how mentoring and leadership are intertwined. This post will cover the many roles of the mentor.
I have been fortunate to be on the receiving end of more than one great mentor and have served as a formal and informal mentor to others. The long-term impact of mentoring can be career changing, perhaps even life changing.
My mentors never “coached” me, but instead challenged me, encouraged me, and acted as a source of wisdom when I needed it most. I carry their impact through my work today. When I’m faced with difficult questions or decisions, I think back on the lessons learned through the years and then take action.
There are several roles and/or responsibilities that a mentor can assume. The role(s) the mentor will assume depends on the needs of the mentee and the type of relationship established. These roles can be combined and potentially evolve as the association between mentor and mentee develops. Your mentor may not assume all of these roles. Some roles include:
- Teacher – the mentor teaches skills and knowledge required to perform a job successfully.
- Guide – the mentor helps the mentee to understand how to navigate and understand the inner workings of an organization. Sometimes this may include passing on information about any unwritten expectations or rules for success.
- Counselor – this definitely requires establishment of trust in the mentoring relationship. The mentor listens to work situations and provides guidance to help the mentee find his/her own solutions and improve his/her own problem solving skills.
- Motivator – a mentor shows support and encouragement to help a mentee through the tough times and keeps the mentee focused on developing job skills to improve performance, self-respect, and an improved sense of self-worth.
- Advisor – a mentor helps the mentee to develop professional interests and set realistic career goals. Goals should be specific, have a time frame, and be results oriented, relevant, and reachable.
- Referral Agent – once a career plan is developed, the mentor assists the mentee in approaching others who can provide training, information, and assistance. The mentor also points the mentee to relevant career-enhancing schools, courses, books, reading, professional organizations, and self-improvement activities.
- Role Model – the mentor is a living example for the mentee to emulate. A mentor must lead and teach by example. To me, this is the most important role.
- Door Opener – the mentor opens doors of opportunity by helping establish a network of professional contacts both within and outside an organization. The mentor also helps the mentee understand the importance of networking with seniors, peers, and juniors to exchange information, ideas, and concerns.
A mentor can be a difference maker in your life and career. It’s important to approach the relationship with an open mind and to set proper expectations.
The next post will cover the roles of a mentee.