Mentoring and being mentored: A win-win situation

 (Part 4 of the Series)

In Part 1 of this series last week we looked at what a mentor is and does. In Part 2 we looked at ways to find a mentor and in Part 3 we looked at how to be a mentor. In this article, we will talk about wether you are an mentee or a mentor it´s a win-win situation never the less.



Making a difference in the lives of others is one of the keys to fulfillment. Susan Krauss found this out in her study of happiness in midlife adults. No matter what their job, the most fulfilled were the people who were reaching out to the young and helping them through life hurdles.


By helping young colleagues, students, friends, and family members, midlife and older adults provide valuable insights based on their own life experiences, insights that can’t be easily transmitted through "book learning."

There is all kinds of advice that the experienced can give to the novice ranging from proper behavior in new situations to hands-on skills to succeed in a given profession. In fact, you don’t even have to be that old or experienced to pass along the knowledge you’ve acquired. I’ve seen many junior and senior undergrads help "mentor" their first-year and sophomore classmates. You don’t have to reach that far down the age hierarchy to pass the torch.


Passing along knowledge from one generation (defined loosely) to the next is a central feature of what psychologist Erik Erikson called "generativity." He believed that the feeling of connection you derive from mentoring helps your ego develop the value of caring. If you don’t develop this quality, you run the risk of what he called "stagnation."


My advice is: Don’t give up on the young. Don’t label them any more than you would like to be labeled. And when a young person appears disrespectful, don’t take it as a sign to write off an entire generation. The person you will be writing off is– yourself.


Mentors and Mentoring: Being a Mentor

 (Part 3 of the Series)


In Part 1 of this series last week we looked at what a mentor is and does. In Part 2 we looked at ways to find a mentor. In this article, we will review some of the factors involved in becoming a mentor.


First Mentors

The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Lew Platt, believes in the value of mentoring, In a letter addressing HP’s K-12 program, Platt sees "educating our children as both a business and a social imperative. After all, the young faces we see today are the faces of the workforce and customers of tomorrow." He recommends getting personally involved – "Speak to a class. Be a mentor for a student or teacher, either in person or by e-mail."

The State of California’s Resources Agency also has a mentor program that outlines the Qualifications of a Mentor, What Mentors Do, and What Makes You a Mentor that are all worth reading.


Adult Mentors
Mentors are common in educational settings. This University of Oregon site provides guidance in selecting a mentor as well as outlining the role and duties of the mentor.


Business Mentors

So what does it take to be a business mentor? It takes the same level of interest, commitment, and confidence in your own abilities that it takes to mentor a student. It also requires that you be sincerely interested in someone else’s growth. You won’t win any awards, but you will have the satisfaction of having done an important job.

Who becomes a mentor? Why do they do it? The answers are as varied as the people involved. Some of us were lucky enough to have had a mentor and want to repay that. Others just want to help out, be a positive influence, or give something to their community.

What ever your reason for being a mentor, you will find it a special experience. Nothing can quite match the self satisfaction you get from sharing your experience to help others.


Talk About It

Mentors and Mentoring: Finding a Mentor

(Part 2 of the Series)

In Part 1 of this series we looked at what a mentor is and does. If you have decided that a business or personal mentor could be a benefit to you, the link below will start you toward finding the right mentor.

Government Resources

Sometimes a government agency will offer to match entrepreneurs, or others in a Mentor Program which seeks to link those new in business with experienced business owners in a non-competing industry.

In the United States you can contact the SCORE Association (Service Corps of Retired Executives) for a free business counselor. The Department of Defense (DOD) has a Mentor-Protege Program too.


Sometimes you can find a mentor through a professional or trade organization to which you belong, or that you can join.

  • The Oak Ridge (Tennessee) Chapter of Professional Secretaries International has a mentoring program designed to help ensure active participation of all members in Chapter activities.
  • Another Australian site is Mentor Resources Of Tasmania, a mentor program sponsored by the Rotary International organization. It is designed for «keeping small businesses in business.»
  • The Culinary Institute of America also has its own mentor program.
  • Another mentor program to assist women is the Mentor Program of the Society of Women Engineers, Baltimore-Washington Section.
  • Marisol Productions has a great article that describes the types of relationships between mentors and proteges. It also talks about how to find a mentor.


Far and away the best place to look for a mentor, however, is right in front of you. Look around you at work. Is there an individual who you admire and respect? Someone who has always impressed you with their insight and preceptiveness?

Maybe your boss or your boss’s boss. Maybe it’s a Vice President in a different division. It could even be the older individual who isn’t currently a top executive of your firm, but who you know has lots of experience.

Approach that individual and ask if they would consider being your mentor. Depending on the individual, and your current relationship, your proposal will vary in the amount of detail and how it is delivered. At the very least, let them know what why you selected them and what you hope to learn from the assocation. If appropriate for the specific individual, you can also discuss amounts of time to be commited and what you will contribute.

Don’t put it off. What can you lose? Even if they decline to be your mentor, and few will, they will be flattered that you asked.


Do you have what it takes to be a mentor? Check the next article to find out what it takes to be a true guide and friend to another individual.

Mentors and Mentoring: What is a mentor?


A friend of mine called the other day to tell me he had been promoted to Engineering Manager for a large, national, environmental services and consulting firm. I shared his good news and thought to myself about the years we had worked together. I remembered the day I hired him as a field engineer, his first professional job.


He has worked hard to get where he is. He is intelligent and good with people. He was a quick study and I enjoyed sharing my experience and knowledge with him. I may have been his first mentor, but I wasn’t his last. Yet it got me to thinking about the importance of mentors.

I would welcome your thoughts and stories on this topic as well. Feel free to email them to me.


The original Mentor is a character in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. When Odysseus, King of Ithaca went to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusted the care of his kingdom to Mentor. Mentor served as the teacher and overseer of Odysseuss’ son, Telemachus.


The Merriam-Webster WWWebster Dictionary defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide." For their Mentor/Protégé Program, the Anesthesiology Department of Cleveland’s MetroHealth System defines mentor as "a wise, loyal advisor or coach."



A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps and guides another individual’s development. This guidance is not done for personal gain.


Mentoring is used in many settings. Although it is most common in business, we saw above its use in a medical setting at MetroHealth. It is commonly used in educational settings, especially with "at risk" students. It is also the basic principle behind the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs.


One of the most valuable assets your career can have is a good mentor.

In subsequent articles we will look at ways to find a mentor, and the requirements you must meet if you want to be a mentor.


If you have any questions or comments about this article, or if there is an issue you would like us to address, please post them on this blog as a comment.

The Mentoring Mindset

Traditional mentoring grew from the concept of the older and wiser guiding the young and aspiring. Masters and apprentices, patrons and protégés and mastermind (expert/novice) mentoring continue this paradigm.

Contemporary mentoring has many forms and frequently people regard each other as partners, colleagues or peers, ignoring age, status or power. This more egalitarian approach suits today’s generation and has much to offer.