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Mentors can play a significant role in an individual’s personal, social and professional development. Many large companies are beginning to institute mentorship programs where senior staff help to educate and guide junior staff members. However, mentoring has been around for centuries in completely organic ways, but what really constitutes a mentor and what exactly do they do?

Create A Structured Relationship

Mentors understand the importance of established a structured relationship with the individual being mentored. Many people who have been mentors suggest that the best relationships are forged through meetings that occur at a specific place and time each week or month. Additionally, mentors establish the objectives of the relationship up front so each party clearly understands what their expectations and responsibilities should be.

Encourage, Not Coddle

One of a mentor’s primary roles is to encourage. However, encourage does not mean complete tasks or build the career of the individual being mentored. Granted, a successful mentor will share their knowledge and expertise. That said, it is up to the mentee to apply this knowledge to their own experiences. A mentor should not correct the mentee’s mistakes or prevent them from encountering such pitfalls. The mentor’s overall aim should be to foster the concepts of learning and moving forward.

Clarify The Big Picture

Once a mentee discloses where they hope to be in a given period of time, a good mentor will clarify the big picture by offering suggestions as to what efforts will be necessary to make intended goals a reality. Most often this is done by sharing how they handled a situation or a mistake they made. It can also mean the mentor needs to be honest about what it’s going to take for their mentee to get there.

Serve As Solid Role Models

Successful mentors often serve as role models to those under their tutelage by engaging in professional, personal, and social actions that others should wish to and strive to emulate. Many successful people find themselves as mentors because a younger professional entering the industry informs them of the impact they have had on their career.

Demonstrate A Positive Attitude

A mentee’s journey might possess snags, setbacks and struggles. During such times, a mentor’s positive attitude and outlook can help mentored individuals overcome any self-doubt or offer the encouragement to not be deterred by any challenging circumstances. Mentors also help their mentees understand that setbacks and mistakes are not one and done. Mistakes will continue to be made; walls will be run into. A mentor can then help their mentee find ways to work through mistakes and develop a healthier mindset towards failure and success.

Is Not Afraid To Offer Constructive Criticism

Typically, successful mentors will not refrain from offering constructive criticism. Feedback, even if not always positive, is vital to the mentee’s personal and professional development. That said, mentors who can deliver criticism in a positive, encouraging manner are more likely to foster the growth of the individual under their purview. Honesty is definitely important to a successful mentoring relationship.

Value Differing Opinions

A good mentor will often respect their mentee’s opinions. Even those involved in the most successful and long-standing personal and professional relationships will periodically possess countering viewpoints. However, good mentors realize that differing opinions will foster dialogue that could precipitate the creation of more fruitful solutions or outcomes. Understanding that seniority doesn’t always guarantee the best ideas or approaches to situations is a beautiful lesson that mentors can learn from their mentees.

Mentorship can be a rewarding way to help bright, intelligent industry newcomers develop the skills, network, and attitude to thrive. Keep in mind that a mentor is not a boss and they aren’t a friend. Mentorship is a unique relationship all of its own that is founded on the basis of encouragement, recognition, and honesty.