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.