Career Advice

What Is a Mentor & How Can You Become One?

Merriam-Webster.com defines mentor as: “Someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. A trusted counselor guide. Tutor, coach.”

The common thread for all mentors is that they offer information, advice and guidance, in an area or areas of expertise in which the mentee has less education, training or experience. They also have a knack for, experience in and/or a process that lends itself to coaching and/or advising someone forward on their path toward achieving specific milestones and goals.

As a mentor, a mentee is your opportunity to create an exchange of knowledge and experience.

While informally mentoring others in the field of strategic resume writing, I have found my role to be one where I have offered up writing examples as well as particular insights on how and why a career story should be developed in a certain way.

[Related: 5 Steps to Finding a Mentor Who Isn’t Your Boss]

I’ve also actively contributed as a career-industry cheerleader and listener, as I believe that mentoring is as much about confidence building as it is about the specific guidance you provide. Moreover, mentoring others has afforded me the opportunity to take stock of my own experience and the value I could bring as a formal mentor.

The role of formal mentor comes to fruition in various ways, but at the heart of each path is the acceptance of the responsibility that the role will hold.

Following are five examples of ways you can become a formal mentor to someone.

1. Corporate Training + Development

Some companies have formal mentoring programs, and if you have specific areas of expertise and/or have advanced through the ranks of your company management, then it is possible you could throw your hat in the ring to become a mentor. It is likely, in this scenario, you will be tapped to participate as a mentor.

[Related: 5 Things To Do With Your Mentor That Don’t Include Coffee]

2. Mentoring Organizations

The biggest benefit of a mentoring organization is that the system has already been established to make the mentor-mentee relationship a win-win. Both parties are entering the relationship with clear expectations and very few variables are left to surprise.

Multiple types of mentoring organizations are available, from 3 Plus International focusing on mentoring for women by high-profile women to Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations, which lean to a more youthful demographic, and everything in between.  

3. Your Own Career Mentoring/Coaching Business

If after a few mentor-mentee relationships, you’ve grown to realize that you have a true knack for mentorship, a career mentoring business may be your obvious next step. Self-awareness and testimonials will help you figure out if a business makes sense for you. Scaling the business from the beginning will also make it possible for you to bring on other mentors and create a matchmaking business that would benefit mentees.

4. Organic Mentoring Relationships

Perhaps a younger and/or less experienced person begins to regularly tap you for advice and guidance, and you feel an affinity toward helping them. Over time, they become your protégé; unofficially, you’ve formed a mentor/mentee relationship. This kind of mentor/mentee relationships has benefits in and of itself because the trust that initially formed also allows for reverse mentoring when need be.

[Related: 3 Easy Ways to Make Sense of Conflicting Career Advice]

5. Industry Association Mentorship Programs

Many industry associations offer mentoring programs whereby you can volunteer your time and intellectual capital to become a mentor to someone new to your field. The added advantage here is that not only are you able to help someone else, it also becomes clear how much of a team player you are.

While it may not be a requirement, it is certainly a value-add to have been mentored before becoming a mentor yourself. This way, you can experience what worked well and what didn’t work so well, and employ takeaways in your own mentoring practice.

The key detail to remember when entering any mentor-mentee relationship is that you bring so much value to the table, you just need to find the best ways to channel it.  

DISCOVER: 10 Signs It’s Time For A New Manager