Mentoring 101

Posted on Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by
In Community, Culture, Helping Out, tagged in Tags:

You don’t have to look far to find books, blogs, articles, videos and training sessions that have been written on the topic of mentoring. There are formal programs with explicit guidelines, handbooks, schedules and timelines to nail down all the intricacies of a successful mentoring program. The roles of the mentor/mentee have been elevated to a level where it seems like you need a degree in interpersonal relationships, should such a thing exist, in order to succeed. Should mentoring really be that hard? Surely not.

Last school year, I served as a mentor to two College of Business Administration (CBA) students from K-State. When I read that my alma mater was looking for ‘executive mentors’ for CBA students, I was interested but convinced myself that I didn’t qualify. I don’t consider myself an “executive” – you know…someone who has an impressive title and flies in a corporate jet. And a “mentor” – well they are those coaching guru types.

I soon learned, rather than titles and status, K-State was looking for people who could remember what it is like to be a student, and who were interested in developing a relationship with someone studying some of the same stuff they had once studied. Maybe I could help after all.

This past year, I’ve learned some pretty basic things.

  • Being a mentor doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It does mean that you want to invest in something beyond yourself. It means you want to listen to someone’s story. It’s more about showing an interest than it is about showing the way; being available and approachable more than having the answers.
  • The mentor/mentee roles are often blurred. Mentors are supposed to be the “teacher” and mentees the “learner,” right? Not always. I’ve learned a lot from my mentees. They’ve reminded me how important it is to work for what you want out of life and to never quit learning. They’ve reminded me that learning is all about discipline – doing what you really don’t want to do so that you can do what you really want to do.
  • Anyone can be a mentor. As long as you want to establish a caring relationship with your mentee, you’re likely good to go. Don’t get hung up on what you might not be able to offer them. Most mentees have minimal “needs” and appreciate knowing someone cares enough to spend some time with them.
  • Be “real.” Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Be open and honest and you will find the same courtesies reciprocated. Meet them “where they are” and let them see the real you. Be willing to tell them the truth. They need to hear what’s best for them, and they need to know that you, too, faced some of the same frustrations and challenges “back then” and even now.
  • You are needed. There are a lot of people in the world who need a mentor—someone to offer a listening ear. Don’t underestimate your capabilities. Find someone to connect with and share your time with. Don’t make it a bigger deal than it really is. Stretch yourself beyond your immediate friends and family and find someone to give back to.

Give mentoring a shot! Here’s a great resource to get you started. Kansas State Department of Education

Share this post: