No matter what stage of life you’re currently in, there is always room for growth and improvement. Sometimes it’s easy to tell where growth is needed, but other times it’s hard to identify what goals should be set for the future.

A mentor can help you determine these goals. They can also help you map out some of the key areas you’ll need to work on to accomplish your goals. Mentors uses their knowledge to help give you direction.

What Is a Mentor?

a man showing the word learning

The common definition of a mentor sounds like this: an experienced person who helps you navigate various situations. They’re someone whom you can admire, who has succeeded in navigating a career similar to the one you yourself are pursuing.

Keep in mind, they don’t fill the same roles the teachers and coaches do. Teachers are skilled at supplying information and helping you learn new facts. Coaches observe your skills and efforts in detail for a set amount of time, then supply feedback to help you hone these aspects and improve upon your talents and ability.

As a mentee, you’ll be getting advice and guidance in a long-term relationship. You’ll be the one who is responsible for setting the agenda during your meetings. You won’t have any obligation to report to them or follow their suggestions, but their advice can be extremely useful in helping you make smart choices. They can aid you in sorting out priorities and deciding on what you’ll do next.

Good mentors will also try to help you in pointing out traits or habits which could be changed to improve your life. While there is a friendly dynamic involved, this doesn’t mean that they will always say what you want to hear.

They can help you identify solid opportunities and take advantage of them. They’ll warn of dead-end assignments and tasks which aren’t worthwhile. By steering you away from these potentially detrimental aspects of building your career, they’ll save you a lot of hassle and keep you from having to learn lessons the hard way.

There are many different types of guidance they can give you, and every mentor has a different approach when it comes to their role. Some mentors challenge you to do more. Others will help educate you and help you learn the ropes. A mentor can encourage you, and help you identify and grow your dreams.

Having more than one mentor can be helpful if you want guidance for specific areas of life. One might help you learn to be more confident and productive, while another might help you learn the specifics of a certain career field. Some may choose to address and focus on small areas of your life, while others seek to see the bigger picture.

Ways to Use a Mentor

a teacher in front of a classroom

#1. Find the Right Mentor

While some mentoring relationships fall into place naturally and without formal planning, many relationships require some amount of effort to set up. Consider the areas of your life or career where you could use guidance and identify people whom you admire in those areas. If they’re willing, meet with them a few time informally before setting up a formal arrangement. And if that person doesn’t seem to be a good fit, end the relationship as soon as possible. Continuing with them won’t just mean wasting time. It can also result in them resenting you and stunting your career growth in the future.

#2. Set Boundaries

A mentor definition doesn’t include the title of counselor. Bringing up rocky relationships or trying to work through emotional matters with them is typically unwise. Save those matters for conversations with your friends or an actual counselor.

Furthermore, remember that the relationship between yourself and the mentor is private. Don’t assume that it will carry over into your professional interactions, or that they will pull strings for you to get special benefits.

#3. Keep Them Updated

There may be times in your life when you don’t need to meet with your mentor for long periods of time. Despite that, it’s wise to keep up the relationship by periodically sending them brief updates about how you’re doing, as well as the impact their mentoring as had upon your life. Let them share in your successes and milestones, not just your decision-making and goal-setting.

#4. Respect Their Time

Everyone has their own life and priorities that they have to manage. Becoming a drain on their time isn’t going to help either of you, so it’s important to respect their schedule. When you need their advice, schedule a meeting and set a reasonable time limit. Avoid any rambling conversations when you’re with them and don’t expect them to meet with you every time you’ve got brainstormed a new idea or feel uncertain about a decision.

#5. Know When to Reach Out

Knowing when to ask for advice is a huge part of a successful relationship. Asking them the right questions can be even more vital than getting wise answers. While open-ended queries can be appropriate in some instances, a specific request for advice or knowledge can be far more rewarding in most situations.

Finally, consider finding a mentee yourself. If someone can use your expertise or experience, pass on the favor by giving them the advice they need. Even if you’re young it’s possible to find teens who could use guidance, or someone older than you who knows less about technology or modern trends.

There’s no reason to ever stop being a mentee, even if you have to build a new relationship to better reflect new chapters of your life. So go and seek out someone to mentor you and reap the benefits of their counsel.

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