In the wake of the great recession, there have been countless casualties. Storied businesses and entire industries have vanished or been irrevocably altered, impacting the economic landscape and financial realities for millions of people. This new world has them fending for themselves.
While bleak, it’s not time to lose hope just yet. The solution for finding success in this “new world” may not be new; in fact, it could be from ancient times.
The Origins of Mentorship
Mentoring originated in Homer’s Odyssey, the 8th century B.C. classic. In this timeless Greek poem, the elderly character Mentor guides the younger character Telemachus during a difficult time. During Homer’s time, elders were revered for their wisdom, knowledge, and experience. The power of this concept cannot be understated; in fact, it has transcended time and remains in our modern vernacular. Whether in a personal or professional setting, it represents the developmental relationship between a senior and junior person.
The Unique Qualities of Mentorship
Removal of separateness: separateness can take many forms (i.e. power, age, status, etc.) that would happen in a traditional relationship of this kind. The removal of this is a critical component of mentorship.
Differing perspectives: both a mentor and a student can share their truly unique perspectives, opinions, and beliefs that get to the core of who they are and what they want to accomplish.
The Power of Mentorship
Society romanticizes the idea of the self-made individual, who single-handedly overcomes many obstacles and disadvantages to achieve their goals. This is wonderful imagery. But, could it be equally plausible that they had someone–a family member, teacher, coach or religious leader–who provided some element that aided in their achievement? If you look closer, this is more common than we think.
What makes mentorship so powerful is the transformation from the impossible into the possible—a human relationship making all the difference.
The Challenges of Mentorship
The qualities that make mentorship so powerful also prove to be its biggest challenge. Mentorship is a deep, lasting relationship requiring time and commitment, putting it at odds with today’s world of immediate results. This is a considerable challenge, but can be overcome.
As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Embrace the effort it takes to make the time for connections with others, and they will respond in kind.
Whether you’re a mentor or mentee, approach every relationship with the willingness to give the time and commitment to make it meaningful. This approach, free of any ulterior motives, really impacts people and the potential for a mentorship relationship develops.
The Creation of Mentorship
While each mentor relationship is as unique as the individuals participating, it is critical to identify the elements that both parties agree to from the onset to set the proper foundation:
- Built on respect: Respect is key to building a foundation for both mentor and mentee.
- Mutually beneficial: Reciprocity provides buy-in and motivation.
- Set expectations: Define what each person is willing and unwilling to give.
- Action oriented: Ensure forward progress is maintained.
- Honesty: Transparency is a critical, but vulnerable step for future growth.
- Communication: Dialogue allows for the mentorship to evolve over time.
Whether you’re in the position of mentor or mentee, it is critical to know that you have a lot offer due to your truly unique experience and perspective. Seek out opportunities to develop yourself and others, not for your own betterment, but the betterment of what interests you most. As stated above, this expansive action is unique, attracting the attention of others, often leading to new insights, skills, and opportunities.