Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Art of Mentoring

Just came back from a much needed vacation. I have been pondering a lot on the art of mentoring and what it actually means.  This lead me to reminisce on the advice people have given me that I may have probably ignored or brushed aside. But there are tidbits of wisdom that have been given to me that have remained:

“When you fear something, face that fear. As that is what brings growth"
“Don’t change who you are for any job or any boss"
“You will always be someone's bitch"
“It’s all about internal marketing"

A very intelligent woman I know recently told me that there is a difference between life coaching and mentoring. Furthermore, she told me that she is very selective about who she mentors as she tends to become emotionally involved in their lives.  I realize that my ideal mentor-mentee relationship involves a mentor who guides the mentee along his/her desired path and helps them find their true vocation. However in my case, it becomes about preventing others from making the same mistakes I made and saving other from the pain and anguish I have suffered.  My lack of career role models meant that mom wasn’t there to tell me how to deal with difficult bosses, my cousin wasn’t there to make a phone call on my behalf.  Now I’m ALL about doing that for my family and given the intrusive nature of family. I'm sure at times my advice is unwanted and most definitely unsolicited.

Granted I’m still much more in the category of those who need mentoring rather than those who should be mentoring others. However, I’m starting to think that the question is more basic than how to mentor, but rather make sure your mentee is actually interested in your mentoring. The line between doling out helpful advice and being overbearing is a fine one. One that I’m still learning how to navigate especially with those who are in my family and close circle of friends.

My mother was a housekeeper when I was young and as my mother cleaned her home this woman took it upon herself to dole out advice to me about life and relationships.  It was totally unsolicited yet she made such a strong impression on my younger self.

My mom worked for her till I was in my late teens and eventually her own daughter was going off to college. Some of her advice such as go to school and don’t marry a man because you need him to provide for you, I have listened to. Other advice such as don’t get married before the age of 30, I didn’t listen to. That doesn’t mean she didn’t make an indelible mark in my life.  I hope that someday I can make that kind of impression on someone and that I have enough emotional distance to accept that not all of my advice will be followed.  

She told me that the hardest part of being a parent is learning when it’s time to let go. Although I am not a parent I think this applies to being a mentor at some point you have to let the kids go out into the world and make their own mistakes. Just make sure you let them know you will be there when their car gets towed for excessive parking tickets (Thanks Dad!) 

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