What does being a mentor really mean?

By Mishelle Denton posted 11-04-2020 05:36 PM


The HEUG Mentoring Committee has opened applications for Mentors and is encouraging anyone interested to apply…. But, what does that really mean?

Perspective: To begin with, there is no set criteria for one’s ability to mentor nor are there specifications for “years of service” or “job title”. I have personally had several mentors who have all come from different backgrounds and levels of experience. My mentors have been invaluable helping me refine my professional etiquette skills, assisting me with business connections, offering advice for managing meetings and projects, and, of course, tips for job specific skills. The value is that they each have their own perspectives about various situations but are willing to take the time to listen to me and offer objective insights that I may be overlooking due to my own biases.

Transitions: There is a misconception that people only need mentors at the beginning of their careers. I’m presenting the argument that you need a mentor through all stages of your career. As you advance, you are unlikely to know everything about the culture and job responsibilities but having a mentor can help you navigate through this uncharted territory. Let’s say that you are at a director level now, but you have ambitions to be a provost or chancellor. Surely you would benefit from having a mentor. Or, as a director, the experience you have in earning that position could be invaluable to someone with similar ambitions. This means that the Mentoring Committee needs all levels of mentors to address the various career transitions we all experience.

Mentor Practical Application: There is an adage that “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses”. Imagine that you were once a young supervisor struggling to retain staff, but you had a mentor who helped you see yourself from the staff’s perspective. This one observation helped you devise a plan to build better relationships with your staff and improved your retention rates. Consider the experience you would have gained and some pitfalls you would have encountered during the process. This anecdote illustrates a relatively simple exchange with a mentor that had great impact.

Being a mentor is building a relationship with another person. It means caring about them and their professional goals, but, it also means, developing your mentoring skills and is an opportunity for professional development. It is not about having all of the answers but helps build confidence for you and your mentee. Take an honest look at your own career and those who stood by you through it. Those who said the hard things they knew you didn’t want to hear and the ones who helped you up when your career seemed to stall.  Being a Mentor means that you could be this person for someone else.

If you are looking for an opportunity to Mentor but you still have reservations, the Mentoring Committee has developed a program to assist in creating Mentor/Mentee partnerships. We will also provide resources and guidance.


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