I once worked in an organisation where part of the bid to encourage or promote inclusiveness of women was to ensure that each had a mentor. The mentors were both male and female and chosen from different departments within the organisation. Now, the aim was that each woman would have a mentor who is a leader in their area of expertise and in that way encourage their growth within the company. This however did not pan out as expected as the number of women interested in the mentorship program surpassed the number of mentors willing to participate in the scheme. This was the first issue as this excess meant that some of the women could not be allocated to mentors in their chosen area of growth. Take for instance, despite being in a tender manager position, I was allocated a mentor from the finance team. Now, this was just one of the problems.
Despite this difference, I had a positive outlook and was really optimistic about my very first meeting with my mentor. Although new to this mentorship thing, I was expecting an instant connection. I mean, was he not supposed to know what to say to me? Guide me on this mentorship path? Second Fail! I had entered the mentorship scheme blindly and with false expectations. The first question I got was “how would you like me to support you?” – I drew a blank face! This is why I would advise that you need to know why you need a mentor. In the same vein, if you are a mentor, you need to know why you are mentoring and how you plan to help the person you are mentoring. I also think mentors need to be coached on managing mentor – mentee relationships. Companies where possible need to have an organised mentorship program. Although my mentor was an excellent individual in his own right, ofcourse the meeting didn’t turn out the way I had planned it or expected it in my head. I left the meeting asking myself if I really needed a mentor.
Having a mentor can be a positive thing if the need for one is defined and the Mentorship program is structured. It can be the sole propellant of your career to its peak if used properly. Mentors can also help you identify your strong points and weak points which will help steer you towards the right path in your career. Personally, I think the focus should be more on having a role model, someone you can look up to in your chosen field and who can provide the necessary coaching you need to attain the highest level in your field. If this person also acts as your ‘mentor’ then that is a plus. Do you really need a mentor? That is for you to decide.
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