By Hanan Awaad
Larry Page and Sergey Brin who started the Google empire admit the significant role their mentor Eric Schmidt played in the success of their new venture, and Mark Zuckerberg talked about how the teachings of Steve Jobs helped him running Facebook to be one of the most successful companies of all times. If such successful people declared – frankly – how other people helped them through mentoring achieve their goals, then we have to admit that success needs a mentor.
Mentor is a name. Mentor was the name of the teacher and advisor who supported Telemachus, the hero in the Greek mythology, the Odyssey. The mythological story says that Odysseus, the king of Ithaca left for war and entrusted Mentor to teach, guide and support his son. After the war ended, Odysseus lost his way back home for ten years. Telemachus went to search for his father. At that time, the Goddess Athena, the goddess of war and art possessed Mentor to be close to Telemachus and guide him through his journey.
In history, there are many examples of successful mentorship, for instance, Socrates and his teacher Plato; Beethoven and Hayden; Freud and Jung; Oprah Winfrey and Maya Anglo. All these examples show how mentoring is an important way to develop your self, your organization and better your life.
Types of Mentoring
Mentoring in the most simpler terms could be formal or informal. Informal mentoring like a friendship between an older successful person and a younger person who is aspiring to be satisfied and happy; or an employee supporting a new employee outside the formal mentorship program of the company; or a loving, supportive relationship between an uncle and his nieces or nephew. Formal mentoring is an organized program within a company or a professional organization that employs a matching system based on some strict criteria to match mentors and mentees. This relationship is tracked and assessed to make sure both parties are investing their time and effort in fruitful ways that enable the mentee to gain knowledge, skills and insight to become successful in their professional capacity.
How to find your mentor
The real dilemma is not understanding the value of mentoring but finding the right mentor that will take our hands and support us in our journey. You might go through some experiences that will bring to you the mentor you need. However, unless you keep an open mind and be ready, you will not be the right mentee. The Chinese proverb says: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Observe those who are around you and ask yourself: who has an interest in what I do; who finds value in what I offer; who shares with me their experience and learned lessons. The answer might reveal those who secretly mentor you.
A mentor is like the co-pilot, he/she does not control the plane, but they alert the pilot to what he/she needs to control. Your mentor will guide you navigate your social surroundings and how to manage your relationships with other. The right mentor will understand your strengths and weaknesses and will challenge you to challenge yourself.
- Be Ready
Readiness is crucial. Start by knowing yourself and what do you need to work on and develop; which is not related to your age, your credentials or years of experience. As long as we have breath in and breathe out, we have the challenge to keep developing ourselves.
Your readiness depends on your ability to ask questions. Those who ask are not stupid or weak, those who ask know that their questions are the gate to reap the fruits of any relationship, especially mentorship.
- Master The Art Of Asking The Right Questions
When asking a question, do not expect an answer you want. If you listen with a closed mind that is not accepting of new ideas or criticism, you will not benefit from your relationship with your mentor.
The relationship between you and your mentor could be a short-term or a long-term relationship. It is sensitive, and it could take you years to build trust.
- Be A Good Listener
When I was a fresh graduate, I established a good relationship with one of my supervisors. I turned to him a lot seeking guidance and support. However, I was not a good listener. In one of my conversation with him, he stood up and left me. When I asked him why he’s gone, he answered, because I was not listening to what he was saying and I listen to reply not to understand. Since that time, I try hard to listen to understand, and I donèt focus much on how I will reply or even reply at all.
- Take Inventory Of People Around You
Once you feel you are ready, as a mentee, look at those who are already in your life: your colleagues, your supervisors, your teachers, people you meet in networking events, relatives, etc. You might already know someone who is qualified to be your mentor.
- Never Pop The Question
There is nothing more terrifying for a person more than been asked: “would you be my mentor”. Mentoring others is a huge commitment, time-wise, emotionally and physically. Everyone would be so reluctant to accept being your mentor unless they participate in a formal mentorship program. This being said, in informal mentoring, you need to adopt a softer approach. Consider a person your mentor without using the word. Try to meet with them and get closer to them; ask questions; listen to their stories, and observe.
- Mentoring Without Mentoring
Your mentor could be a public or historical figure that you do not have an actual contact or relationship with them. One of the business people I met in an event told me that his mentor is Elon Musk. I asked him, how do you keep contact with each other while you are here in Canada and he is in the States; he answered, of course, we are not communicating, and he even does not know anything about me. He continued: I read everything about him, I follow him, I learned about the business he started and managed, then I formulate my strategies, and in many situations, I ask myself how Musk will act in this situation.
You can learn from anyone, older or younger than you; working in the same field, you are in or have a different career; you know them in person or read about their success.