I came across the blog of a young woman today that posed a question about mentor relationships. In this case the definition of mentor is anyone other than a member of your immediate family or your best friend. This is an area I’ve thought about frequently and it prompted my following response:
I’ve gone my whole professional career without a mentor. I’ve gotten what I consider close a few times, but they never fully developed. I do, however, mentor several people today.
I believe two things are true with mentors; mentor relationships develop naturally and they’re built on trust.
I am not a believer in seeking out a mentor or taking an objective approach, i.e. service, to finding a mentor. It is like seeking out a husband or wife, it just happens.
That’s why typically you’ll hear of mentors being a college professor who you formed a special bond with over four years or a boss who gave you your first shot and took you under her arm. These are natural forming relationships that just happen.
I do think you can put yourself in situations, whether personal or professional, that can foster mentor relationships. It may come from common groups of interest or professional associations in which you are active.
The success I’ve enjoyed in my career has come through the school of hard knocks. A mentor could have softened those hard knocks by giving me a heads up that they existed around the bend. On the other hand, perhaps having experienced those situations first hand has given me the tools to mentor others in search of success.
I believe true mentor relationships to be the exception rather than the rule. Maybe its because I didn’t have one or maybe I’m wrong.
I’d be curious to know what you think.