Could Luke Skywalker harness his abilities without Yoda’s wisdom? Would the Banks family learn the importance of family without Mary Poppins? There are no shortage of mentor-mentee relationships in cinema. In these examples, the mentors provide insight to bring out the best in the mentees. Similarly, we can leverage the advantages of mentorships to get ahead and avoid mistakes. Don’t believe me? Here are some perspectives on mentorship from successful public servants.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ―Benjamin Franklin
“Search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career. But here’s an important warning: you don’t have to have mentors who look like you. Had I been waiting for a black, female Soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting.” ―Condoleezza Rice
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ―John C. Crosby
In this week’s post, I’ll discuss three qualities to look for in a mentor.
They say the best ability is availability. This rings true for mentor-mentee arrangements. Not surprisingly, your mentor might have a full plate, so be respectful of their time. In my experience, establishing expectations at the outset dispels vagueness. Drafting a mentoring agreement helps to this end. The agreement should include the following:
- Expectations of relationship
- Stated goals
- Confidentiality standard
- Proposed meeting schedule (monthly, quarterly, etc.)
With this is mind, fight for consistency; scheduling the next appointment during a meeting is the way to go. As a mentee, it is helpful for your mentor to send an agenda before the next meeting. That way, both parties are prepared for the discussion.
You want a mentor who has your best interests. An impartial voice is crucial to professional development. As a mentee, display openness towards constructive criticism. This will empower your mentor to be honest. A humble attitude will go a long way in building trust and rapport.
An inspiring mentor possesses desirable qualities and skills. They should also move you to see your potential, especially when you do not see it yourself. However, it is important that they “walk the talk.” Seek someone whose life—not merely professional accomplishments—you admire.
Homer’s magnum opus, the Odyssey, coined the term “mentor”. Odysseus asked his friend Mentor to help watch over his son Telemachus while fighting in the Trojan War. Twenty years later, the goddess of wisdom, Athena, disguises herself as Mentor. At that point, she gives Telemachus advice before he embarks on a quest to discover what happened to his father. In many ways, the crux of mentorship remains the same—getting vital input on a personal journey. As you look for a mentor, make sure they are available, objective, and inspirational. May the Force be with you!
Wander Cedeño is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
Love this post!! I am thinking about finding a mentor but I feel like I have a vision in my head that he or she should be basically Yoda but these tips definitely have helped me come back to reality. I also think that being humble is key to a mentorship… if you aren’t willing to take criticism then it wouldn’t work at all! Thank you!
Great post, Wander! Thanks for sharing these good tips.
I wonder how Benjamin Franklin would work out as a mentor for American Indians/Alaska Natives like me in the GovLoop space. Particularly after he made this comment about Native people in his 1750 autobiography. “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for cultivators of the Earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means.”
As we look for mentors, may inclusion be with you.