Mentors help create more room for reflection and improvement. Whether the support is physical or emotional, mentors are invested in you as a person (at least the best ones are). A mentor is an observer that openly gives feedback, knowledge, and wisdom.
A Mentor's Role
A mentor’s focus is not exactly to “guide you,” but to show you there is a way. There are goals with general steps to achieve desired outcomes, but the true reality lies in knowing that the most detailed map is not a guaranteed route for your journey. Expect to receive suggestions about how to balance your skills. Mentors hold you accountable, which is very important. For someone to hold you accountable to your potential, they are saying "I know you can do it."
Your mentor is interested in helping you help yourself. When the time comes, pressure will be applied. Luckily, mentors are mindful of your strengths and what needs to be worked on. Your mentor will recognize your tendencies, including what makes you uncomfortable. After observing, mentors pull together the information to relay to you the criticism that may help you get past a rough patch in your journey.
Mentors try to have you move outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes they will push you there, and sometimes their encouragement will have you feel confident enough to leave on your own. They know you need to venture out of your comfort zone to exceed your potential. Yes, they want you to exceed your potential. Mentors provide, and help you find, resources to equip yourself to be the best you can be.
As wonderful as mentors are, they cannot do work for you. You cannot expect a mentor to completely push you to do everything. Mentors push when they see you are moving, so it’s almost like a boost instead. Mentors will give you advice to help you envision a good direction towards which you can work. As a dependable observer, the mentor will help you make slight adjustments to your current journey.
On the other end, mentor-mentee relationships are not always so serious. A mentor is a person with traits you admire. This is someone you can laugh with, confide in, or to whom you can vent. This depends on how close you’ve become with your mentor. In fact, you may connect with one or more mentors over time. For instance, different mentor-mentee relationships could develop based on distinct periods of your life.
Finding a Mentor
Any groups or clubs you participate in are places to develop a good mentor-mentee relationship. Most times, mentorships develop from people with whom you have contact. You grow into a mentor-mentee relationship through your interactions. On the other hand, if you would like to be proactive, I would suggest initiating the mentor-mentee relationship.
Choose someone, and begin a dialogue: approach them with questions about your craft, ask for feedback, and let the person know what you are up to or have been working on. You do not have to pour it all out at once. Keep in contact with your desired mentor. Based on the interaction you receive, you’ll see if the mentor is a good fit for you.
In the case that you do not see your relationship with the mentor growing or being reciprocated, stop. The mentor-mentee relationship is possibly not meant to be. Similar to any other relationship, a major factor of the interaction is a genuine connection with sincere intentions.
A Two-Way Street
The mentor-mentee relationship is not one-way. You impact your mentor with your actions. Mentors love to see mentees be passionate, improve, and challenge themselves. The mentor feels more motivated to work hard for themselves, and later on, pour more into you.
Even if you do not see your mentor as often, they will always be there, especially if you remember the wisdom you received from them. Start to pay attention to the people you trust and connect with. Build the mentor-mentee relationship, and watch yourself flourish.
Illustration by Abbie Winters