The best definition I have read for mentorship yet is that we are constantly influenced by individuals, ideals and society. When you consider the concept from this perspective you are constantly engaging in unconscious mentorships in your daily life. What happens when you want to make it a more conscious effort to learn from someone in your company (or in turn if someone wants to learn from you!). Effective mentoring relationships in the workplace can have huge effects on overcoming obstacles to career growth, helping to clarify your career goals and understanding how to take feedback and use it for your growth.
How do you find a mentor?
What qualities are most important in order for you to get the most out of the relationship? Someone who is similar but also different from you so that you have something to learn from them. For instance, someone who can share a different perspective in how to grow within your organization or someone who has a position in a part of the company you are interested in. However, being in a strong and effective mentoring relationship requires certain qualities of both parties.
Be open minded.
As a mentee you have to be open minded in the information they are providing. Sometimes their story or career path seems so different than yours that you don’t listen. You just write it off because it is not a path you see yourself on. But if you allow yourself to be open to hearing the full story there might be aspects of their journey that you can adopt in your own story.
This can be a daunting idea. Someone has gone out of their way to help you to develop in your career path how can you give them feedback without sounding like you’re not grateful for their time and wisdom. Part of being a good mentor is being able to give and receive feedback in order to strengthen the relationship. It also will help for future mentorships.
The saying that everyone is going through something should be taken with us in all walks of life. We don’t know how someone got to be where they were until they share their story with us. That is a vulnerable place to be at times especially if the road has been a rocky one. Listen with an open mind (back to where we started!) and let them know they have been heard. Just because they might be in a power position in the company doesn’t make them any less human.
Share your own story.
When someone opens up about their path it creates a wonderful opportunity for you to do the same. You never know if something you say sparks something for them to help support you better in your journey.