Modern Day Odyssey – In Search of a Good Mentor
By Vibhuti Joshi, M.S., LPC, Learning Services Coordinator
The word ‘mentor’ is derived from the named character in Homer’s epic tale “The Odyssey.” Trusted friend of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, Mentor also served as friend and counsel to Odysseus' son while Odysseus was away fighting in the Trojan War. Similarly, a current-day mentor guides a lesser experienced person through challenges they’re likely to face. The most effective mentor understands his or her role as a dependable, engaged and authentic adviser tuned into the needs of the mentee.
Good mentors also value the relationships they have with those whom they mentor. While you should expect to gain a great amount of knowledge and wisdom that a mentor obtained firsthand in their profession, each mentor-mentee relationship can be unique. Ultimately, the success of any mentorship depends on the contribution each is willing to add to the experience.
In looking for a mentor, the primary thing you want to see is someone who is excited by the value of his or her relationship with you, and who knows how to draw out from you your challenges and opportunities for accomplishment. Some key characteristics you’ll see in a good mentor:
- An advisor who leads you in learning how to think through and solve problems.
- A cheerleader who provides appropriate emotional and moral encouragement during tough moments.
- A trusted guide who offers support through professional challenges.
- A role model who demonstrates professional ethics and integrity.
In making the most of the mentoring relationship, you’ll take with you interpersonal and professional knowledge that would take you longer to learn on the job alone. You’ll also end up with more confidence than your colleagues just entering the professional workforce.
While this relationship can tend to give one-sided gain to a mentee, you can also provide much benefit to your mentor. As the person on the mostly receiving end of the opportunity, you’ll want to keep in mind keys to building a good relationship and making the most of interactions between you and your mentor. Just as in any motivating relationship where each person seeks to mutually benefit the other, you can help create a motivating opportunity for your mentor as much as he or she can for you.
To a mentor, your teachable attitude and willingness to take on challenges and growth is the inspiring environment your mentor might hope for. Any mentor is energized seeing mentees grow from the time, experience and wisdom they sow into them. In turn, mentors have great opportunity to grow even more from the contributions shared between you.
With that in mind, don’t be afraid to network and ask several professionals whom you admire. Along with being flattered that you asked, when you find the right person, you’ll find that they look forward to the potential rewards of a mentoring relationship as much as you do. The right relationship will be a fulfilling experience, and one neither you nor your mentor are likely to forget.
As a Learning Services Coordinator at Colorado Technical University, Vibhuti Joshi, M.S., LPC, is in charge of open house, communities and clubs within the Virtual Commons on CTU’s Virtual Campus, the student mentorship program and quarterly workshops. She earned her Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She has been a licensed professional counselor in Illinois since 2009.
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Image credit: Flickr/G Travels