What is mentorship? I bet you’ve asked the question, even if you’ve not actually articulated it. Maybe you’ve even tried to determine how to find a mentor, or how to be a mentor – but maybe you’ve gotten stuck. Well, you’re in luck because here at Nextwelve.com, we love to explore mentorship!
In his 30 years of speaking on the subject, Steve has found that mentorship appeals to most people. Most of us feel that it would be good to have a guide to help us with important decisions, or that it would be rewarding to intentionally invest our life experience in helping someone else. But mentorship can become a lot more enigmatic from there.
Unfortunately, after struggling with the basics, many people give up on trying to find a mentor or be a mentor and never explore mentorship in any further detail.
What is Mentorship?
Though mentorship begins as a fluid concept, it’s possible to solidify some important principles. First, however, it’s helpful to dispel common misconceptions that hamper our ability to find a mentor, be a mentor, and answer the question “What is mentorship?”
- Mentorship is not limited to a top-down, didactic relationship
- Mentorship is not limited to the business or professional sphere of life
- Mentorship is not rote or formulaic
- Mentorship need not be a formal, status-based relationship
- No special training is required to be a mentor
- It is not difficult to find a mentor
At this point, many people become confused because I’ve just obliterated every conception they’ve ever had about mentorship. If these popular misconceptions don’t characterize mentorship, then what does?
“A role model in the flesh provides more than an inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt.”
– Sonia Sotomayor
In reality, the answer to “What is mentorship?” is very simple: Mentorship is sharing life. Mentorship is, at its core, a committed relationship. Yes, there are certain skills involved in mentorship, but they cannot develop or be employed effectively outside the context of a committed relationship. As the relationship develops both individuals benefit – character is honed, iron sharpens iron, and each person is encouraged to live into his or her potential. Happily, these benefits are unavoidable when mentorship is done correctly.
By way of introduction, let’s quickly examine two of the most basic questions we here at NexTwelve.com get asked about mentorship: 1) How to find a mentor, and 2) How to be a mentor.
How to find a Mentor
While some people may say otherwise, it is not difficult to find a mentor! For example, in the past 18 years, Jer has been mentored by 10 different men. Some of these relationships were formal, and others were informal. Some lasted for a season, and one lasted until his mentor’s death. Some are still ongoing!
If you’re looking to find a mentor, start by taking stock of people around you who you admire. Determine that you want them in your life and then commit to developing a relationship with them. Be intentional and pursue them. Invite them to lunch. Have questions ready to ask. Sometimes you may end up asking them to mentor you, but often they don’t even have to know of your intention.
It’s extremely important to surround yourself with good people because the power of association is unavoidable – you will become increasingly like the people you associate with most frequently. That’s why developing mentors is one of the best ways to ensure that you live your life to your fullest potential.
How to be a Mentor
While there are certainly special skills involved in being a mentor, mentorship is first, foremost, and always about a committed relationship. In fact, if you have an innate desire to invest your life in the lives of other people, chances are you’re already a mentor – and you may not even realize it!
Unfortunately, in trying to determine how to be a mentor, many people suffer from what we call, ‘The Shingle Effect.’ This occurs as a result of mentor training programs, which are well intentioned but generally misguided. They often do more harm than good because they tend to put skills, untested in the fires of real relationship, ahead of relationship itself.
The problem is that these types of programs attempt to offer a sanitized, cookie-cutter approach to mentorship. After going through the program, you can hang out your shingle as some kind of ‘certified’ mentor. But relationships are never sanitary and neither is mentorship. Accordingly, we’ve found that it’s much more effective to focus on establishing the relationship first and then working on the skills.
If you want to be a mentor, start by determining who you’re going to mentor. As noted above, mentorship need not be a formal relationship – but relationship is required. Next, resolve to commit to that relationship and take some initiative. Meet for lunch on a regular basis. Take an interest in your mentee’s life. Spend time together and allow the relationship to develop organically. Mentorship is not difficult or mysterious, it simply requires intentionality and genuine interest.
Mentorship has played an incredibly significant role in our individual lives. Nothing else we’ve experienced has been as formative. There is no replacement for a mentor! Our mentors have:
- Catalyzed the development of our dreams, goals, and vision for life
- Solidified our individual character and work ethic
- Encouraged us to take important, healthy risks
- Inspired our commitments as men of faith, citizens, husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons
Notably, our mentors have also helped us learn the importance of mentoring others. Just as we believe every person should find a mentor, we believe every person also needs to be a mentor, as well. Accordingly, this blog is an effort to help people learn how to find a mentor, how to be a mentor, and ultimately answer the question “What is mentorship?”
We love learning about mentorship, talking about mentorship, being mentored, and being mentors. If you’re interested in learning how to find a mentor, how to be a mentor, or just looking to answer the “What is mentorship?” question for yourself, then this blog is for you. Welcome! Check out some of the popular posts listed below and please don’t hesitate to comment on articles so we can all benefit from your experience.
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