What ever happened to good old fashioned mentoring? Those men and women that made a difference to our lives? No fancy corporate programs – just trusted relationships that became valuable touchstones in our careers.
The concept originates in Greek mythology, when Odysseus entrusted his loyal advisor, Mentor (aka Athena, the female goddess of wisdom) with the care and education of his child, Telemachus. Move ahead to the 21st century, and a mentoring relationship is no longer this exclusive.
Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction ~ John C. Crosby
As we navigate the twists and turns of our careers, mentors offer observations, tangible advice and emotional support. All of this, for as little as the cost of a latte. Yet when I ask the people I coach, Do you have a Mentor?, the reply is mostly a resounding No.
With corporate upheavals, flatter matrix-based organisations, hot-desking, new technologies and the explosion of social media, mentoring’s had a makeover. As no one individual can possibly address all aspects of our careers, a smorgasbord of mentors, with a diverse range of views and expertise is on offer.
Whether it’s forming a personal board of directors, or a developmental network, mentoring encompasses a range of people who have a genuine interest in our career, learning and growth. And while chemistry is still important, new-age mentoring is about mutually beneficial, and reciprocal relationships. It’s also gone 360 degrees, with peers, direct reports, customers, stakeholders, and senior managers in the mix.
Mentoring happens on the job and in cafes, and can be scheduled or opportunistic. Insights, information, guidance and new perspectives are available on career direction, leadership challenges and project issues. Conversations and contributions can be as varied as the mentors we engage.
Good mentors will challenge and stretch our thinking and help us to explore new options, opportunities and networks. They share their experiences, give feedback, and the tell us the things we don’t really want to hear. The partnership should be nurtured, and mutually energising, not depleting. These are positive relationships that generally make us feel good, and necessarily uneasy at times. And perhaps more importantly, mentoring can help us to get unstuck when we need it, and give us the confidence to make a well deserved career move.
Mentors are all around you. Are you ready for the smorgasbord?