Are you a mentor or a “mentee”? I am both and I would venture to say so are you. I thought for many years that a mentor had to be someone of great stature otherwise the advice had no merit but this is far from the truth. I bet you have mentored someone and don’t even know it- a child, partner, friend, co-worker, someone who reports to you, or even your boss.
Many Universities have great programs of pairing students or recent graduates with career established alumni allowing for a structured program of meetings, feedback, and such. So, if you are not part of a program are you not mentored or do you not mentor someone? This is hardly the case. Recently, I hired someone in my new location from a past hotel, this individual had the opportunity to join my team as well as a team in a larger hotel. When I asked why she chose my hotel, she looked at me puzzled and said “why on earth would I not want to work for my mentor again?”, I was shocked. I never thought I was her mentor because we did not have a formal program, we had conversations and projects. As I pondered this, I thought what exactly is a mentor and how am I qualified to be one?
As a professional I have been fortunate to have many colleagues and many on my team that are incredibly talented and driven people as well as those that are just happy where they are. You can mentor both, just have a different approach. For those that are happy where they are- challenge them to be the best in that role, just because they don’t want a bigger role doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn. For those that are driven- be creative, they are hungry and even the tasks you see as small are learning opportunities. Take a step back after ten years and see where everyone is, quite amazing when you realize you have touched so many careers and didn’t even realize it.
As a mom, you don’t see child rearing as mentoring but this is the greatest task, is it so different to guide your child through class selections as it is guiding a team member through seminar selections? Not really. I never thought this way until my daughter was finishing her first year of college and she thanked me for guiding her. Consider the times your high school daughter thanks you for helping them decide what to be involved in, mentoring. Ultimately, the decisions your child makes are theirs, you just guide them.
As many times as I offer advice or have a succession plan conversation with someone on my team, I have one with my boss or my “mentor”. I seek out advice often from those I trust and I am mentored by my parents, children, colleagues, and most importantly, my partner. I appreciate the impartial honest feedback and that is what makes you a great mentor or “mentee” and you never stop being one no matter your age or stature you just need to be open to giving and receiving feedback.
The definition of a mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser”. I am happy to say I have been this and have had these, I hope you can too. The next time someone asks just to chat for a few minutes, say yes, this may be a great mentoring moment for you both.