Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
If I made a list of all the people who I consider my mentors, it would be a short but powerful list.
A mentor is a “trusted counselor or guide,” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. The word mentor can be traced back to Greek mythology in Homer’s tale, "The Odyssey." Mentor is a character in the tale who is a trusted friend to Odysseus, a great warrior. When Odysseus leaves to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusts his son Telemachus and the entire royal household in the hands of Mentor. In my mind, Mentor’s role is one of a guardian, a counselor and a friend who has a person’s best interest in mind and encourages him to succeed.
Odysseus was a wise father who was concerned about his son’s welfare in his absence. Parents can be the firsthand mentors in life, but there are circumstances and areas of life where other people are crucial to an individual’s success.
I remember one of my first mentors. I was living in France doing an internship and it was my first time away from home. One of my co-workers in the company took the initiative of making sure I knew my way around at work, taught me how the systems worked in their city, and even welcomed me in her home. She became a close friend, someone who cared, almost like a second mother. It has been 11 years since then, and we still keep in touch. I will be forever grateful for a mentor who helped me overcome homesickness and enjoy the benefits of becoming more self-reliant, no matter where in the world one lives.
Later in college, other mentors came along who advised me with career and certain life decisions, encouraged me to develop my talents and leadership skills and were there to listen to what I had to say. In other words, they helped me fly and they believed in my ability to succeed.
Research shows that mentoring works. Mentor, the National Mentoring Partnership, refers to a research brief published by Child Trends titled “Mentoring: A Promising Strategy for Youth Development.” This brief shows the benefits that result from participation in mentoring relationships:
— In terms of educational achievement, mentored youths have better attendance; a better chance of going on to higher education and better attitudes toward school.
— In terms of health and safety, mentoring appears to help prevent substance abuse and reduce some negative youth behaviors
— On the social and emotional development front, taking part in mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships. Mentored youths tend to trust their parents more and communicate better with them.
Over the years I have learned many lessons from mentoring, but here are three elements that have contributed to the success of my experience:
Seek and welcome mentorship opportunities: It is important to define personal goals and take the initiative to make new friendships. Find out who the experts are and get involved in areas of common interest, find mentoring programs, volunteer for desired causes, extracurricular activities and look for the guidance needed. Also, it is crucial to be open to a mentor’s constructive criticism and direction.
Many times, mentors have opened the door and started walking me down a path I longed for, or helped me discover new avenues that I had never thought of. Other times, they are the ones who have given me that final push in order to fly on my own. But I had to allow them to help me.
Keep in touch with mentors: I believe mentors are lifetime friends. Even if time passes and individuals move on to other stages of life, it is important that they keep their mentors updated. Mentors can still have some words of wisdom, and this helps those they are mentoring keep a sense of gratitude in their hearts for what their mentors have done. My mentors have been thrilled when I email them with news about how much I have learned and grown over time.
Become a mentor: Giving back is one of the most rewarding deeds. You don’t need to wait until you have a long-time career or a graduate degree to consider becoming a mentor. Every person has valuable skills and unique experiences that other people can learn from. It all narrows down to having a willingness to share and to encourage others to succeed.
Getting out of one’s comfort zone could be one of the main challenges for seeking a mentor or becoming one, but getting out of the shell is definitely worth it. In the words of Winston Churchill, “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
May Lundy enjoys living in Salt Lake City with her husband Jon. She works at Deseret Digital Media and currently writes a monthly column for Okespa�ol, a Spanish language newspaper.