Why You Should Change Your Idea About Mentoring

Mentors, where can they be found? It’s common knowledge that relationships are very important and can often be instrumental in a person’s development and advancement in life, and ever so often people are encouraged to have in their inner circle different selection of individuals from different backgrounds, levels of knowledge, and different world views for…

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Mentors, where can they be found? It’s common knowledge that relationships are very important and can often be instrumental in a person’s development and advancement in life, and ever so often people are encouraged to have in their inner circle different selection of individuals from different backgrounds, levels of knowledge, and different world views for a limitless flow of information that could stimulate mental development. While relationships are important, the need to have a mentor/mentee relationship with someone older, someone in a senior position or highly placed in life is posited as crucial to career and personal success/advancement.

Where then can they be found? I read somewhere that mentors select protégés based on performance and potential. Intuitively, people invest in those who stand out for their talent or who can really benefit from help, and mentors continue to invest when mentees use their time well and are open to feedback. But my question is when young men and women are advised to find mentors in order to excel, is that good advice or does that make us dependent? I read the training manual of a friend and as one of the requirements for a successful career, the facilitator wrote in bold letters “finally, get a mentor”; and I asked my friend if the man explained how mentoring works, how to sustain a mentor/mentee relationship and how one can cultivate such relationships and she said no, according to the man, getting a mentor is the easiest requirement in the list.

I believe that mentoring and sponsoring relationships often form between individuals who have common interests or when a junior person reminds the senior person of him/herself, it comes naturally. But what about the tricky issue of a mentoring relationship between people of the opposite sex, a lot of times younger women and senior men avoid engaging in mentoring or sponsoring relationships out of fear of what people might think. We know what is happening out there, most times the first thing that comes to mind when one sees an older man with a younger woman is that surely they’re having an affair, but what if this mind-set is actually doing more harm than good by making serious minded individuals avoid close contacts with people of the opposite sex who are older because they don’t want to give a negative impression? Yes, I know that there are older men/women who are perverts but there are also genuine ones who want younger people to do well and prosper. Since personal connection leads to promotion, recommendation, sponsoring, support and assignments that can improve one’s life, will an older man and a younger  woman in a bar ever be seen as just mentoring and not dating, just as an older man and a younger man at a bar is seen as mentoring?

If someone has to ask another, are you my mentor? The answer I think is, no, because when someone finds the right mentor, it should be obvious; the question then becomes a statement. I used to be a strong Oprah Winfrey fan before the internet, I would buy any CD I can find of a compilation of her shows probably done by my igbo brothers at alaba market, and in one of the videos Oprah said that she often feels uncomfortable when people approach her out of the blue and ask to be mentored by her, according to her she mentors when she sees something in someone and decides that is a flame that is worth fanning.

So now I wonder, are we being misled when we’re told to “get a mentor and you’ll excel”? Or should it be changed to “be outstanding and you’ll get a mentor”?

Image via www.spinedu.com

Responses

  1. Obianuju
    Hi. I felt this space was lonely.
    Well I looked for a mentor for a bit. The first turned out to be a big old perv. The second was nice but extremely busy. We’re still in touch. A perfect solution actually to the issue of mentoring is getting online mentors. Very hard to entertain perverts and a way to very easily deal with busyness.
    Reply if you can.
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  2. Walter
    That question at the end though. A million dollar question. Mentors usually just want someone with a spark they can recognise and then nurture. And that just sidelines those with potentials that haven’t become obvious yet.
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