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Definition of Mentoring

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In the workplace, a mentor is often a senior manager who takes on the role of teacher and helps new workers to excel. The mentor and mentee enter into a relationship that’s based on mutual respect and trust. The partnership may go two ways in that each helps the other navigate unfamiliar territories, excel in a career and master certain skills.

Mentoring Through the Ages

Mentoring is an ancient practice that generations have used to advance their skills and improve their performances. The word actually derives from ancient Greek mythology, where the god Mentor served as a counselor of sorts to Odysseus. Whether workers through the ages referred to their teachers as mentors or not, people have always relied on the wisdom and knowledge of others as they moved through their careers.

All Shapes and Sizes

Unlike the general dictionary definition, a workplace mentor is not a coach who is primarily interested in workers’ personal development, but is rather more focused on specific workplace tasks and skills. In the modern workplace, a worker may need to have multiple mentors to grow in different areas. While mentors are often older, they don’t have to be, nor do they have to have seniority at work. A mentor is someone who knows more than you do about a specific topic and willingly shares that knowledge with you, usually without extra pay.

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Mentors Practice What They Preach

According to the Careerstone Group, a consulting company that specializes in making the most out of employee relationships, a great mentor not only speaks well, but also walks her talk. Great mentors have a deep desire to share their experiences to help others. Success in a field is not the only criteria to become a great mentor; the mentor must be willing to spend time with the mentee, share successes and failures, and be willing to ask questions too.

Willingness on the Receiving End

People who seek mentors must be willing to listen to the experience and guidance of others. A good mentee also asks for help when it’s needed, takes the time to spend with a mentor and listens to the advice proffered. Mentees often share their expertise with mentors too. For example, if you are in your 20s and are being mentored at work by a 60-year-old expert in your field, you may be able to share your experience with social media as he shares his experience with making presentations to prospective clients. Successful mentoring requires patience and commitment from both parties.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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