Do you have a mentor? Do you mentor someone?
What does it even mean to mentor? I think people sometimes get this question mixed up. The basic definition per Websters is, "to teach or give advice or guidance to someone less experienced and often a younger person". There are many types of mentors. Today I will focus on the professional side of things. Majority of the things shared below apply to every type of mentor.
I had a conversation with a friend a while back about the importance of having a mentor. We went back and forth on what exactly is the mentor suppose to do for you. As the definition mentioned, they are suppose to provide you with valuable advice. some folks feel that, their mentor is suppose to listen to all their issues in the world(they are not your therapist), they are suppose to help you find a job, basically, they are just suppose to be there for you when you need them. To some extent, I agree that they are suppose to be there for you, but not at your beck and call. In my opinion, a mentor is a professional relationship you build with someone. You two can decided to increase the level of your relationship to personal(which some folks do) but most times, keep it professional. As in, If you are in search of work and need advice on your resume or work search tips, ask your mentor. If you are writing your school thesis and your mentor is well versed in your area of studies, ask their opinion on things. Try as best to keep it professional as possible and if indeed your relationship escalates to a personal level, even better. They just might be invited to your family bbq :).
I have heard people express concerns about the gender of their mentor. Should I have a female mentor because I am a woman? Well my dear, you are entitled to any gender for a mentor. A woman may seem ideal because she is of the same gender as you and you may relate but, you will be surprised how much information you would get from a male mentor. Think about it. If the CEO of the company was male(as per usual lol I had to throw that in there), you are interested in one day becoming a CEO. Yet, you chose to be mentored by the director of operations because she is a woman. What are the odds that you will learn the strides of becoming a CEO? You may learn a lot from your female mentor, but do not hesitate to request mentor-ship from someone you aspire to be like because of their gender.
Should my mentors age matter? What if I am older than them? Similar to gender, age shouldn't matter. The idea of mentoring is for someone to gain something valuable, to use and improve their life. If a younger individual has that, then reach out to them. Trust me, they probably feel weird too about the age difference but, if you both have confidence in what your are trying to achieve, age shouldn't be a problem.
Am I allowed to have more than one mentor? Yes you are. You are entitled to as many as you want to have. As long as you are getting the advice you desire. In addition, the more, the better. You are open to so many people from different fields(especially if they are) who will share with you different experiences and provide you with a plethora of ideas and advice to pick from.
How do I get a mentor? This is the question of the century. I had a discussion with one of my customers while I worked in DC about getting a mentor. You know what he told me? He said, Keshia, don't be shy, just ask. What is the worst that can happen? They will just say yes or no and move on. So there you have it. The bible says, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find(wow my mom would be proud of me quoting the bible and all lol). Nonetheless, If you see or know of someone you think would make a great mentor, do not hesitate to ask them. Majority of the time these people would love to share their experiences with others. They are willing to play the mentor role. I suggest, you get to searching. You can find them on linkedin and send them an email. Emails are usually the best way to start. Think of a great subject line to have your email read. Within the email, express your profound admiration for them and get straight to the point of your email. Try a few of that and you will get some responses. I myself have had a few coffee meetings even though I don't drink coffee. They are very useful and leave you inspired.
Last but not least, what if I don't have a mentor, is that a bad thing? Hmm! It's not a bad thing. It will be better to have a mentor or mentors but if you don't, it is not the end of the world. You still have enough time to build a mentor/mentee relationship with someone. Make sure it is someone you truly admire and value their opinion. Also, you can take on the role of mentoring someone. I myself never really had someone to call a mentor. I have had professors who answered my questions and gave me advice( I suppose that qualifies). Nonetheless, I took it upon myself to mentor others. When you become a mentor, there is a sense of joy within one's self. You are taking the initiative to impact one's life, be it big or small, something is being done.
I am interested in hearing your mentor stories. Are they personal or strictly professional?