The broad and basic definition of a mentor is “one who is an experienced and trusted advisor.” The more formal definition of mentorship is “the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company, or educational institute.”
Throughout history, there have been various other names for a mentor. In law enforcement, a mentor is called a rabbi. This would be an experienced officer who guides a young rookie through the ins and outs of being part of a law enforcement agency. In the religious community, a mentor is often referred to as a confessor. This could be a clergy member or simply someone who is a member of the congregation.
Mentoring can be a powerful interaction between an experienced mentor and a lesser experienced, sometimes younger mentee. The relationship is typically guidance-based and can take place in a variety of formats, such as professional life, school environments and marriage.
Regardless of the title, everyone at some point in their life, needs someone to assist them in professional, spiritual, marital matters, parenting, etc. At its core, mentoring is helping! Mentoring can be a powerful experience for the mentor and the person receiving the mentoring.
The history of mentoring appears to have originated as far back as Greek mythology. A man named Mentor became a trusted confidant and overseer to Odysseus and his son Telemachus. This was at a time of the Greek war against Troy. Through his dealings with these two famous Greek leaders, the term “mentor” was coined. From this time in Greek mythology, up to the last 100 years or so, there was little reference to mentoring. Logic would tell us that these types of interactions must have taken place in many communities around the world. The important concept of apprenticeship certainly had strong elements of mentorship in its DNA. Over the course of U.S. history, there have been many who have participated in mentor-mentee arrangements. Some notable examples are listed below
Henry David Thoreau, American essayist, poet and philosopher, was mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was a powerful American essayist and poet who led the Transcendentalist Movement in the mid-19th century. Emerson was a major influencer in the same disciplines as Thoreau and shaped his education and philosophy.
Helen Keller, American author and disability advocate, was mentored by Anne Sullivan. Sullivan taught Keller to overcome her blindness and become one of the most powerful figures in American history.
General Colin Powell, four star general and former secretary of state, had what many young people have experienced. That is, having a family member as a mentor. Powell credited his father for instilling in him the virtues of hard work, loyalty, integrity and being a leader, as the central focus of his life.
These three examples are of very public and famous American figures. The fact is, anyone who has some experience and expertise can be a mentor. In addition to having experience and expertise, the main requirement for mentorship is a willingness to help others. Being interested in others, giving back and “paying it forward,” should be the core values of mentorship.
How do you become a mentor?
The options for becoming a mentor are endless. Listed below is a small list to get everyone started on their exciting mentorship journey.
- Your place of employment. This can be pursued through a formal channel, such as the human resources department, or informally as the opportunity arises and someone looks ready for direction.
- Boys and Girls Clubs of America, bgca.org
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, bbbs.org
- Local Churches
- Just Serve, justserve.org
It is never too late to become a mentor. Start your journey now in 2022, to help others and yourself in the process
About Mike Zinn
Mike Zinn is a certified Life Coach, based in Tustin, California. Mike works with individuals, couples, small and large groups and companies all over the U.S.
For more information, visit lifecoachingbymikezinn.com.