International Mentoring Center


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What is Mentoring

In the simplest terms, mentoring is a one-to-one relationship between an experienced (mentor) and less experienced (mentee) people. A mentor helps the mentee gain knowledge and develop the required skills and attitude to achieve the mutually agreed goals.

The term “mentor” is believed to be derived from Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey, a fictional character. It also shares roots with the Sanskrit word “मन्तृ” (mantṛ́), with the literal meaning “an advisor, counselor, or wise man.”

Today, mentoring has adopted a broader application, serving different purposes. For instance, mentoring can also help in onboarding, business setup, and cross-generational or cross-team understanding, apart from knowledge or skill sharing. Mentoring is now a highly dynamic profession that caters to different forms. Hence, mentorship guidelines serve as the ground for establishing clear purpose, focus, and goals for both mentor and mentee.

Let’s envision what is actually mentoring in our everyday lives:

A young man, Alex, recently moved to a new neighborhood. Keeping the garage door open, he was trying to fix a broken wooden shelf. Reed, the next-door neighbor, seeing him struggling with tools, offered to help. Over a couple of days, Reed helped Alex pick the right tools and even taught him a few techniques to craft and assemble the shelf. From explaining a few nuances of woodworking to giving Alex hands-on experience, Reed mentored Alex to achieve his goal, i.e., repairing the rack. Later on, Alex discovered that Reed was a retired carpenter.

Though this is an informal mentorship, the scenario cognates with our everyday situations. You may find yourself in similar circumstances to learn something actionable in a short span for personal or professional growth. This might not give you the sense of partnering with a mentor immediately.

Is Mentoring Different From Coaching?

Having worked in the mentoring industry for almost a decade, we affirm that mentoring is not coaching, counseling, or training. Mentoring can be synced with these professions to achieve the desired results. 

Mentoring is a sweet spot between coaching and training. 

To sum it up, a coach may not be an expert. And works as your thinking partner. In both relationships, you are accountable for your goals.

Types of Mentoring

The most common types of mentoring include formal and informal mentorship. Whether it’s woodworking or career lessons, mentoring happens organically in everyday situations, impacting your growth and attitude.

Formal mentorship involves a specific, structured, mutually agreed purpose, scope of work, objectives, and goals.

Informal mentorship occurs spontaneously without a structured framework that serves ad-hoc needs.

Formal mentorship best serves individuals seeking professional or personal development within a defined subject.

Mentoring can also be one-to-one or group-based. We strongly recommend you understand your ability and requirements prior to looking for mentors.

When Should You Consider Mentoring

Before we consider “when” to consider mentoring, let’s understand “what” and “how” you can decide you’re a mentee.

We often use coach and teacher words interchangeably with a mentor as this helps them envision a complete picture of their requirements. 

Being as specific as possible about your desired outcomes takes you towards the measurement of your goals. For instance, you might want to learn to play guitar. This requirement is predefined by you, which becomes your goal. The result can be varied – you learned or still progressing – that are your outcomes. Hence, it’s crucial to keep your goals time-bound. If you know the basics of guitar playing, you need a mentor to enhance your skills and knowledge. On the contrary, you need a trainer or teacher if you want to start as a newbie.

Let’s rephrase the question: When is the right time for you to consider mentoring?

Mentoring is not limited to a specific career or life stage; it can be considered an ongoing process. You may have multiple mentors simultaneously, each addressing different needs. The right time to consider mentoring is when you determine a need for guidance, learning, and support to achieve your goals more efficiently and effectively. Some common questions to help you get started:

  • What challenges am I facing that can be overcome with mentoring?
  • What achievable goals can I set for myself and my mentor?
  • Do I have the time and commitment to engage in mentorship?
  • Am I open to feedback and learning? Am I ready to take accountability for my actions and goals?
  • How will I measure the success of my mentoring relationship?

Answering these questions may help you assess your keenness and motivation for mentoring and guide you in structuring a successful mentoring relationship.

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