A mentor is someone willing to help guide someone else towards the achievement of a specific goal, someone with experience in a certain area, able to provide guidance, direction, and constructive criticism based on experience and knowledge gained.
Many think a mentor is someone who will cheer in your corner and tell you that you are making great decisions. It makes you feel invincible and that all of your decisions are correct. You feel like you can do nothing wrong. Then… it happens. Your mentor challenges you to take a larger step forward, maybe even a leap!
Mentors are more than a cheerleader applauding when things go right, or encouraging when things go wrong. A mentor seeks to help find the most beneficial path for your journey and will provide a directional change if a correction is needed. Sometimes, perhaps more often than you might think, your mentor will challenge you to make those uncomfortable decisions, taking you outside of your comfort zone, helping you grow in the process. The intention is not to simply make you uncomfortable (although that is likely going to happen), but to help you become stronger and more knowledgeable in some area.
What is the difference between a mentor and a coach?
They are quite similar, depending on who you ask. I take a different approach with mentoring than with coaching, which drives my definition. Mentors and coaches will help with some challenge or concern in your professional and/or personal (yes, personal) life. The key difference is outcome and time.
The mentor/mentee relationship is more of a partnership that may last a long time (years or even decades). It is less formal in nature and follows a more holistic approach, looking at the whole person and situation to help them grow personally and professionally. There may be a specific set of concerns to address or it may just be someone looking to grow in general.
The coach/coachee relationship follows a more structured approach, designed to resolve a specific issue or concern within a specified period of time (30 days to a year, sometimes more). The structure to resolve the issue or concern is driven by the coach. The emphasis is resolution of a specific issue such as leading unmotivated people, career transition, becoming more organized… If you can think it, there is probably a coach that specializes in it.
I tend to coach my mentee through specific situations to accomplish the task at hand, while mentoring them through the process. For those looking for a coach only (to get through a situation), the focus becomes issue resolution, resulting in some degree of mentoring. Ultimately, call it what you want. The point is to help others through guidance and direction.
How do I find a mentor?
Well, it really depends on why you are looking for a mentor. The starting point is to determine what your end goal is. Do you have a challenging individual at work you are struggling with? Are you looking to transition from one career to another? Do you feel your life is at a stand-still? Perhaps you just have no clue! It is ok, the first step is realizing you need help.
Finding a mentor may be easier to do than you think. Identify what it is you are looking to achieve such as becoming a better leader, transitioning to a new career, thrive in life, and so on.
Then, look for someone who:
If you don't know what you need just yet, look for a life coach. They will be able to help identify where and how to kick-start your journey. Start by finding someone you trust who has used a life coach. If you don’t know anyone who has, then do a simple internet search. You may need to try a few before you find the perfect fit, but there will be one, just keep looking.
Another thing to remember is you may have a mentor or coach sitting right next to you. Do you have a good manager at work you admire? How about a parent or relative? Neighbor? Look around, the person you need may be closer than you think.
Until next week…
Jared W. Snow
Shameless plug – we offer coaching and mentor services if you are interested. Just reach out and let us know how we can help.