How a Mentor or Coach Can Help Guide You

If you have been a fan of the Lord of the Rings or the Star Wars series, you will easily understand the dynamics of a mentor-coach relationship. After all, where would Frodo be without Gandalf or Luke Skywalker without his Yoda?

The mentor-coach relationship is legendary; in fact the original Mentor is a character in Homer's Odyssey - the man who is entrusted by Ulysses as his son's teacher, overseer and confidant.

Today, you may not be out fighting wars or saving damsels in distress, but with the tough competition that the market throws at you, the value of a mentor who can show you all the winning moves cannot be discounted.

Whether you're in college or trying to make it in the corporate world, a good mentor who would help you do things better will prove invaluable. Also read Career Resources for additional information to help you on the path to earning a degree or to take that next step in your career.

Who is a Mentor?
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a mentor as a trusted counselor or guide. Generally speaking, a mentor is somebody who would qualify as your role model; somebody you would like to emulate, somebody who is willing to invest in you and become your professional guru.

Almost always, he/she would be much more experienced than you. The guidance is not rendered for any personal gain and unlike your average network contact this person would do much more than give you a few job leads. Instead, he/she would run with your vision and in many cases, help you with a re-vision.

What a Mentor Can Do for You
A good mentor is both an adviser and a coach, working relentlessly on you, exploring and honing your talents and giving you honest, constructive criticism.

A mentor can have two functions - career development and psychosocial development.

Career Development Function: In this role, the mentor provides the mentee with exposure and visibility, coaching, giving challenging assignments and even providing protection in the corporate jungle.

Psychosocial Development Function: On the psychosocial front, the mentor can help the mentee cultivate a sense of identity and competency, boosting the mentee's self confidence and social perception.

What to look for in a mentor
As a general rule, it's better to pick your mentor before he/she picks you. After all, you want somebody who will help you attain or formulate your vision, not project his/her vision on you!

Look for somebody who is in a position that you'd like to be in a few years from now. Check to see that your mentor has the clout and the willingness to guide you to a similar position.

While a mentor should be motivational, he/she should also be unflinchingly truthful and provide you with honest and helpful criticism. At the end of a few meetings, you need to have a good rapport with your mentor.

Avoid associating with a mentor who would be controlling and demanding and who'd try to push you into a place that you don't want to be in. Instead, try finding a mentor who shares your core values.

Where to find your mentor
You can find a mentor just about anywhere. Perhaps there is already somebody in your field of employment or your college program whom you deeply admire.

You could also look out for a mentor at your alma mater (perhaps a senior). If you're working, look in current or previous places of employment. In fact, many colleges and employers have a formal mentoring program in place. There are even formal mentoring organizations that match mentees with compatible mentors.

For some people, the mentoring relationship could take the form of serial mentorship - a number of mentors with whom the mentees engage on a short term relationship. Career writers Devon Scheef and Beverley Kaye point out that 'mentworking' - a combination of mentoring and networking - is a new trend and works out well since everybody involved is both a learner and teacher.

Once you have identified somebody as a mentor, go ahead and approach him/her asking if he/she would like to be your mentor. Explain why you think this relationship would work. Reveal as much as you can about yourself. Often mentors engage with mentees in whom they see a little of themselves, so do be open. Also read ByteStart.uk for additional information regarding a coach or mentor relationship.

Tips for a good mentor or coach relationship

  • Discuss expectations and come to a mutual understanding about the areas where you need input and how often you will be communicating, the mode of communication and time commitments.
  • Express appreciation often and in small ways to show that you are thankful. Remember the mentor is investing much in you and it is an unpaid, voluntary commitment on his/her part.
  • Give your mentor space. He/she is not your guardian angel, only a guide and a senior.
  • Do not get over dependent. Think of a mentor as a consultant whom you can turn to for help, when you cannot manage on your own.

Tips for a good mentor or coach relationship

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