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We mentioned briefly on our most recent show that it would be worthwhile to find a mentor in your 20s, and be a mentor in your 40s. What exactly does being a mentor or mentee look like, and why is it important? Typically we think of a mentor as someone older who helps guide and give advice to someone younger, which may be career-related. Is there anything else to it?

What is mentoring?

A mentor is someone who is more experienced at something, sometimes a career, who offers guidance, advice, and support to someone who is less experienced. The experience and knowledge of someone who has been in an organization for a long time is a very valuable asset.

Why mentoring is so powerful

There are many organizations that recognize the power of mentoring and make it a cornerstone of their values; churches, youth sports, and scouts are a few examples. Mentoring expert Drew Appleby says that “mentors help people determine who they want to become, how they must change in order to become these people, and how they can take advantage of their college or work experiences to bring about these changes.”

A good mentor can help you figure out who you want to be and help you realize what steps you need to take to get there. Instead of figuring things out for yourself, you can rely on the experience of someone who has already gone through what you would have to go through. You can learn from their experience instead of making your own mistakes, which can be extremely powerful.

How do I find a mentor?

If your organization or company already has a mentoring program set up, start there. Chances are mentors in a program have either been mentored or already been a mentor before, so they’ll not only have valuable organizational experience to share, but experience with mentoring as well.

If your organization doesn’t already have a program in place for mentoring, you can still find a mentor fairly easy. The relationship doesn’t need to be formal; a mentoring relationship is based on the guidance, advice, and support the mentor provides. If you want to advance your career within your organization, try finding a mentor who works at the same company. If you’re unhappy with your career, try looking for a mentor in a field you’re interested in.

Your mentor doesn’t need to be career-related, either. Mentors can help you improve your faith, marriage, and almost any other aspect of your life.

How can I be a mentor?

If you have a lot of experience in an organization, a career field, or just a particular aspect of life, you can help someone else by becoming a mentor. The easiest way to find someone who needs mentoring is to join an official mentoring program at your organization.

If you don’t have an official mentoring program available, you probably already know someone in your life who could use your expertise. It may be a junior colleague at work, or a friend who has less life experience. Pay attention to someone who asks for your advice regularly; they’re probably a good candidate to be a mentee.

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