by Dave Duarte
Mentorship is consistently one of the things that has been most transformative, enjoyable and beneficial in my life. And technology is making mentorship more accessible and quantifiable than ever before. If you've never had a mentor before, and want to know how to get going, this article is for you.
Mentors are not all-knowing beings, they tend to be great at one thing you'd like to be better at.
I've found the best type of mentorship relationship is reciprocal and subject specific. For example, when I wanted to improve my pricing in my business I asked around for someone who was great at pricing and asked if I could contact them for informal advice on that. In turn I wanted to find out if there was anything I could do for them in return for the advice - usually offering my skills in branding, digital, PR or speaking.
A great entry-point to this kind of mentorship could be something like Clarity.Fm - where you can find someone who is experienced in a particular field and get their advice on something they have experience in.
I've also had life mentors who would guide me through aspects of my personal life such as getting in shape, working through stress, or getting into a lifestyle like outdoor adventure sports.
This might make it seem like mentoring is all about advice. If this were the case, I'd just recommend a list of books, articles and podcasts. Mentoring is not just about advice, it's a change-state relationship. It's more about insight than information. So it's not about "picking their brain", it's about letting someone be a positive influence in your life and that means making a commitment to connect on a regular basis, in real-life or in real-time (Skype with a cup of tea is my favourite).
Trust is essential
To get going, just to spend time discussing the subject of the mentorship, sharing experiences, asking and giving advice and developing trust. As trust and respect grows, which takes time, the mentor can go beyond just advice towards also making introductions to open doors for the mentee. This is where things can really get transformative. The mentor can open doors to new worlds.
Good mentorship is heart to heart, and over time trust and friendship can develop that extends beyond the initial subject.
Aristotle said there are three kinds of friendships, those based on Utility, Pleasure, or Goodness (or some combination of the these). I think that mentorship should be friendship of Goodness where the mentor and mentee see the good in each other and want to help each other strive for goodness.
These relationships can add a richness at every stage of our lives. There is something so rewarding not just in getting mentorship but giving it too.
One of my mentors told me that you should always have three types of mentoring relationships: someone older to give you wisdom; your own age to give you motivation; and someone younger to give you perspective.
There are professional mentors who are excellent at what they do, and if you are uncertain about how to proceed I would certainly recommend that. Over time though, I think it is worth developing the capability to mentor and be mentored as a type of friendship.
Have you had any experience mentoring or being mentored, please share your thoughts or questions in the comments.