In this blog post, Saloni Agarwal, pursuing a Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata, describes the importance of mentor(s).
“Mentors are not teachers, but awakeners” – Albert Einstein
A mentor is a “confidant whose hindsight can become your foresight”. The word mentor had its origin in mid 18th century via French and Latin from Greek Mentōr, the name of the adviser of the young Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey.
According to Oxford dictionary, mentor means –
- “An experienced person in a company or educational institution who trains and counsels new employees or students or an experienced and trusted adviser”.
- “Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional and personal development.
- The “mentor” is usually an experienced individual who shares knowledge, experience, and advice with a less experienced person or “mentee”.
Mentoring is a relationship between a senior and a junior where the elder person guides the younger person through difficult times, gives advice and support.
In an organization, the senior helps the junior through his early career. He gives guidance, suggests training if required and helps make the right career choices.
This article would focus on the insights of a mentor while dealing with the need of a mentor, who is a business mentor and how can we find mentors.
Mentoring vs Coaching
“A Mentor is one who teaches and coaches others to do the right thing”
The two words often used interchangeably are mentoring and coaching but there is a difference between the two.
In simple words, Coaching is to increase awareness and clear doubts and to ensure that the student is able to perform well in respect of which coaching is taken. It is a short-term exercise as compared to mentoring. On the other hand, we have mentoring.
- Mentoring is a long-term exercise. Mentoring involves shaping an individual’s career, mindset, beliefs and mold an overall personality by ensuring that on every step of his/her career, the mentee has a guidance which would take him/her through all difficulties.
- A mentor is a guide and a philosopher of a student. Mentors help by using their knowledge and experience and thus providing advice, giving counseling, helping in networking and ensuring personal support and encouragement.
In short, training/coaching can improve our skills but not our perspective/approach towards our career.
The table capitulating the essential difference between mentoring and coaching is as follows:
|Ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time.||Relationship generally has a set duration.|
|Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some advice, guidance or support.||Generally more structured in nature and meetings are scheduled on a regular basis.|
|More long-term and takes a broader view of the person.||Short-term (sometimes time-bounded) and focused on specific development areas/issues.|
|Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the ‘mentee’. Often a senior person in the organization who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities.||Coaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their client’s formal occupational role unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused.|
|The Focus is on career and personal development.||Focus is generally on development/issues at work.|
|Agenda is set by the mentee, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles.||The agenda is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals.|
|Mentoring resolves more around developing the mentee professional.||Coaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues.|
Who Is A Business Mentor 
“As employees move up the ladder, mentoring gains significance and employees gain more through mentorship than any other form of talent development initiatives.”
Mentors have a tremendous role in terms of molding the careers of the employees that they mentor – opines Ravi Shankar, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, HCL Technologies.
- The business mentor’s interest is to foster the career development of the mentee.
For Instance, Hindustan Lever- the consumer goods leader, has had a celebrated mentoring program.
- Every new management trainee is assigned a mentor. The mentor is supposed to meet the trainee on a regular basis and offer guidance.
- And the city-based internet consulting company Indus Net Technologies on Friday launched a digital acceleration lab in Kolkata for nurturing and mentoring startups.
- Business mentoring can be a highly effective way to improve business performance.
Swapnil Khandelwal, co-founder of alumni-based social network startup AlmaConnect, is a perfect epitome for this situation.
He always looked up to his two big shot mentors – Amit Ranjan and Gokul Rajaram.
- The Gyan offered by Ranjan to Khandelwal was simple – “Engagement comes with content“.
- The Solution too was Elementary – “Content needs to be unique, revolving around what alumni are interested in and not getting anywhere else”.
That advice spurred Khandelwal to come up with a “News related to alumni” section on his site worked like a charm, with visits increasing by 400%.
This is how mentors are useful and an effective way to improve the business.
Business mentoring is often confused with management consulting and business coaching, but it is different as follows:
- Management Consulting is based on the expertise, knowledge, skill set and technology of the consultant. The consultant’s skill set is focused on building their own internal resources, in order to apply them for the client company’s benefit.
- Business Coaching assumes that the client has the necessary capability and helps them to discover it for themselves.
- Business Mentoring targets the personal development of people who are well versed in their fundamental technical skills but need extra assistance in other skills areas, expertise or knowledge.
Benefits of Having A Mentor
“Mentors become trusted advisers and role models – people who have “been there” and “done that.” They support and encourage their mentees by offering suggestions and knowledge, both general and specific. The goal is to help mentees improve their skills and hopefully advance their careers”.
- Improves the interpersonal skills of a mentee.
- Helps in networking by making his/her own contacts available to mentee.
- Helps to understand the culture and unspoken rules of the organization, where the mentee is.
- Gives mentee a wider perspective of the situations in hand, which otherwise would be difficult to handle and adjust to.
Maybe, that is why Zuckerberg didn’t take the help of any technology geek nor did he sound off his investors to bail him out. Instead, he turned to his mentor, his guru.“I went and met Steve Jobs,” Zuckerberg recalled. 
- Mentee gets an opportunity to learn much beyond the straitjacketed confines of his/her specified role at work. 
- Mentee gets an opportunity to interact with a senior person outside his/her direct reporting line. 
- Boosts the self-confidence of mentee.
How Can You Find Mentors: Author’s View
As discussed above, finding mentors is crucial to one’s success. It is important to have mentors to be able to shape your dreams into the success of reality.
“First of all, IT’S ABOUT THE PERSON, NOT THEIR POSITION”
-said, Alexa von Tobel, CEO and founder of LearnVest.
Now, you may be able to find mentors through an acquaintance or an internship.
If you find someone in Your Own Field and doing pretty well, through someone known, then that person can be a great mentor.
- Firstly, that person would respect you due to the person through whom you are acquainted.
- Secondly, you won’t hesitate to call that person in case of guidance.
- Thirdly, if he/she is young (still in later 20’s or starting 30’s), you can be informal.
If you find an Associate/ Senior associate/Principal associate in a firm, who you think is sweet enough to help you in and guide you through your tough times, don’t forget to take their numbers on the last day of the internship.
You can always indulge into a conversation with them and tell them how badly you want to intern again in the same firm/organization and keep in touch with them, through wishes on various festivals or asking them in times of need, if you could call them and discuss.
MAKE SURE, YOU ARE NOT ACTING AS A SYCOPHANT.
Few General Steps To Find Mentors Are:
- LOOK OUT FOR SOMEONE WHO IS THERE, WHERE YOU WANT TO BE
Find someone who is like you, someone with a similar set of attributes like strengths and skills, you want to emulate.
- STUDY THE PROFILE OF THE PERSON ON LINKEDIN, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, ETC
This would help you know if your decision to approach him as a mentor is correct or not because the profiles speak a lot for your mentors.
This helps to know what all those mentors did in their life and how you can incorporate those activities/achievements in your life and definitely-YOUR CV!!!
- TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS, FIND THE RIGHT TIME TO!!
Whenever you meet your mentor, tell him/her about your achievements in between your conversations.
This will make it easier for you to ask if he/she could be your mentor and for them, it would be easy to take you as a mentee as they are aware that you are smart.
When in doubt about when to ask, just go for it .(that’s what I do and it usually works)
- ASK HIM/HER IF YOU COULD TAKE THEIR EMAIL ID/NUMBER
In your conversation, ask him/her, if you could take their number for some guidance in future prospects.
And please mention that you will make sure that you do not disturb them unreasonably or waste their time.
- LET THE RELATIONSHIP EVOLVE ORGANICALLY  We sometimes place too high of expectations on mentoring. We want to give it a name because it gives us a sense of status and importance. But really, it’s just a relationship.
Mentoring is organic. It’s healthy to let it grow like any other relationship — over time and based on mutual respect and trust.
Mentoring is organic. It’s healthy to let it grow like any other relationship — over time and based on mutual respect and trust. Don’t force it. That will kill a potential mentoring relationship faster than anything. Give it time; it needs to grow.
- ASK YOUR MENTOR FOR FEEDBACK  Feedback can be hard but it’s good. As your relationship with your mentor progresses, this will be the way you grow. It will be a highlight for the both of you.
While asking for feedback you may initially feel weird eventually, it will become almost second-nature.
You will find yourself thirsting for those words you used to fear. Similarly, a good mentor will treat these times with great care and sensitivity.
- COMMIT TO THE PROCESS
You can’t be mentored in the summer. That’s an internship. Mentoring takes real time and real work.
Come hell or high water, you’re going to make it work.
In order for it to be in a real mentorship, you have to commit to the relationship. Come hell or high water, you’re going to make it work. Then, you will begin to understand what it means to be a student, a disciple, a protege.
- MENTORSHIP IS NOT A LIFE VEST  Mentorship is not a life vest. You cannot reach and claw for people to save you from the deep end or even save you from the shallow end— some people are looking for mentors in the shallow end, not even doing anything that warrants a mentor.
It should be mutually beneficial. I believe that if you’re looking for someone to help you and you’re not bringing anything to the table, that’s really not cool.
It is rightly said- Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. When we come across few people, we think that why can’t we be like that person? So, why not make them our mentors and get a push in that direction?
Drop your views regarding What you think about Mentoring & Who is a “Perfect Mentor” as per You.
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