If our lives are like budding trees, mentors are the rain and sunshine that provide the nourishment needed to create the fruits of physical, emotional, and spiritual satisfaction.
Take some time to think about a mentor who's been there for you. Was it a work colleague? A coach? Maybe a teacher you clicked with? How about a close family member?
The mentors in our lives can vary, and in many cases, aren’t limited to a single one. As we cruise through life, we encounter people whose impact ripple how we view the world or approach a situation.
When the LYF Team chose to dedicate an entire month to highlighting these special people, I immediately thought of my third-grade teacher, Ms. Franks. Gentle, kind, and a lover of books, she approached her teaching with an unbridled enthusiasm that I’ve yet to see executed by anyone else. She encouraged creativity within the classroom, emboldening my classmates and me to write stories during our free time, and cherished any opportunity to form a reading circle and orate to the class.
Her generosity also existed outside of the classroom. Ms. Franks became a close family friend, always present during holiday celebrations or intimate gatherings. And to a recently immigrated family from the Philippines, Ms. Franks was invaluable towards streamlining our cultural transition.
Without a doubt, Lisa Franks profoundly affected my creative passions, and I can definitively say that she is the one who sparked my joy for reading and writing.
Passing it Forward
I’ve thought of ways to emulate the drive and dedication Ms. Franks practiced, but I’ve realized that there is no proper way to become a mentor. Instead, mentorship is a naturally occurring process where the call to support and uplift another person is intrinsic.
The relationship between mentor and mentee must be reciprocal for the mentorship to be effective. In an ideal situation, the mentor offers their advice and experience, and the mentee is receptive to the suggestions.
You can’t force mentorship; otherwise, what you get is a relationship lacking any of that shared appreciation expected between master and student. But what if you do find yourself in a position where the opportunity for mentorship has presented itself?
Once the signs of reciprocity between mentor and mentee become apparent, the mentor should question how they can be an effective mentor.
What is a Mentor?
Before diving into the strategies, that’ll make you a mentor, let’s discuss the unwritten responsibilities you’ll be taking.
At its core, a mentor is a trusted individual the mentee turns to for advice and guidance.
The context for what advice you offer can vary depending on the situation. You may find yourself providing input to a new hire at your workplace or offering emotional support towards someone going through a problem you’ve also experienced.
Additionally, there is no set-length to the relationship you share with your mentee. You may fulfill the role for a lifetime or short duration, but your relationship’s length is representative of the impact you’ve had upon them. Though I haven’t been able to contact Ms. Franks for some time, I still feel the effect she’s had on my personal and professional pursuits.
No matter how substantial the relationship with your mentee is, you will undoubtedly cause ripples in their life. It’s just a matter of being a positive and effective influence during your time with them.
Ways to Be an Effective Mentor
Now that you’ve gained a better idea of what a mentor is and the responsibilities of the role, here are a few ways you can be an effective mentor.
1. Be Vulnerable
As a mentor, you should NEVER pedestalize yourself. Instead, find ways to relate to your mentee.
Vulnerability is an admirable trait that will show your mentee that you aren’t immune to making mistakes. Showing them that you’ve shared the same problems that they may be undergoing allows you to appear more personable towards them.
2. Be a Present and Active Listener
Though you’ll be providing your fair share of advice, an effective mentor must also be able to listen to their mentee actively. When a mentee voices their concern over an issue, make the conscious effort to focus on what they’re currently saying instead of anticipating what may be said next.
Listening to your mentee will allow you to provide the best possible advice. Engage in a dialogue with them, asking questions and providing feedback regarding their concerns.
3. Offer Gente Guidance
As a mentor, you take on the mantle of being a voice of reason. It should be your intention to provide gentle guidance for your mentee rather than sweeping ultimatums.
You can offer advice and feedback about how you dealt with a situation, but never tell your mentee that a certain way is wrong or right. Realize that your mentee is entitled to following their own decisions.
You’ll meet a considerable number of people who will profoundly impact the way you go through life. As you gain their knowledge and input, view these moments as an opportunity to translate their teaching into your own.
Mentorships are cyclical by nature, and the lessons we learn are meant be transferred to others.
In my life, I’ve found myself having to consider my role as a mentor to my sibling, close friends, and, most recently, LYF's newly inducted interns. During those stoic moments of conversation regarding life experiences or when providing clarification about completing a task, I’ve offered my perspective, always being vulnerable, a present and active listener, and a gentle guide.
Mentorship is a fulfilling experience for both mentor and mentee and should be treated with careful consideration. Though the goal is to help the mentee, for prospective mentors, know that the process will also be a learning opportunity for you as you navigate ways to explain certain concepts and provide consistent motivation.
Have you ever been the mentor or had one that’s affected you? Sound off in the comments below. We’d love to hear!
About the Author:
Aaron Talledo is currently pursuing his BA in English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He finds inspiration from literature, music, and film and expresses creativity through writing. In his free time, Aaron enjoys fitness, meditation, and video games.