If you’re considering becoming a mentor, let me start by saying good for you! It can be such a rewarding experience watching and helping someone grow.
If you’re feeling the pull to mentor, I believe you should trust your gut. You don’t have to be an expert at coaching or the top of your field to offer valuable support to someone with less experience.
There are a lot of reasons why people hesitate to take on the role of mentor. It’s common to feel you don’t have enough to offer or believe others are better qualified. Yet with mentoring, like any new endeavor, I believe you learn your strengths as you go. Patty Azzarello had this experience:
When my mentees would come and talk to me about what was happening in their jobs, I would share ideas and stories that I thought might be relevant. (I can’t emphasize enough that it did not feel like I was sharing anything of value.)
I was amazed when they would come back and say, “Thank you so much, I did what you said and it worked so well!”
I’d be thinking, “What did I say?” And when they repeated back to me what they had learned and what they had done, I was staggered to find out that my stories and ideas had been so useful.
It’s important to remember that the things we regret are more often the ones don’t do. But it’s also good to remember that mentoring is a commitment. You are purposefully agreeing to a role in someone’s life, and, as with any commitment, it’s good to set your expectations and availability early on.
Mentor relationships are unique. John Young, founder of mymentoradvisor.com writes, “when you are a mentor, your relationship with the individual you’re supporting is more complex than it is when you’re a coach, consultant or adviser; those roles are more task- or skill-oriented and typically involve a shorter timeframe.”
Don’t let this more complicated relationship scare you off! I’m writing from the perspective of someone who has often sought out mentors. They have played a big role in my life – these people who were willing to grab coffee once a month or whose office doors have been open when I needed it. Some of these relationships have even morphed into close friendships over the years. I think I can safely say that they’re glad they took me under their wings as well.