Odysseus, a king of Ithaca in Ancient Greece was said to have left behind his family, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, to fight honourably in the Trojan War. Caring for his child's well-being, he left his son under the watch of his trustworthy friend, Mentor.
Unfortunately, the Trojan War lasted for ten years and for the purposes of additional misery, Odysseus was cursed by the sea-God Neptune and spent ten more years unable to return home.
In a modern twist on Homer's Odysseus, in Fenelon's 'Les Aventures de Telemaque', Telemachus is a young man in need of guidance and receives help from the Goddess of War, Athena disguised as Mentor. It is this modern twist on Homer's Odysseus, that sets our modern use of the word mentor.
Mentor is portrayed as a character of virtue, a trusted and wise advisor who supported Telemachus with good counsel (most probably because Athena did a much better job at being Mentor than Mentor himself). Indeed, supporting the notion that mentoring is a nurturing process given by the wise.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is an excellent way to revolutionise your professionalism. Quality mentoring has been shown to have positive effects on success in students. Research shows that a good experience of mentoring can lead to increased productivity and even increased financial support.
Earlier, we learned of the goddess Athena disguising herself as Mentor. This highlights the fact that it is important to have a reliable advisor in life who can actually fulfil the role of a mentor effectively. There is so much knowledge to be gained from individuals with more career experience than yourself. Finding someone who is both willing and able to mentor you is a challenge.
What can I expect from a mentor?
A good mentor will work closely with you to develop a sense of who you are. By learning more about your career goals, interests and hobbies, your mentor can recommend activities that will develop you professionally, interpersonally and educationally.
You can seek advice from mentors, for a different viewpoint, direction or an informed opinion of what steps you should take next. Asking the right questions will help draw out advice that is tailored to your situation.
You are not obliged to follow the advice you are given, rather it is up to you to choose what advices you'll act on. This means that you will have to weigh up what pieces of valuable information is most important to you.
Every mentor has a story of their own. They have real-life experiences that have fed into their passions and defines who they are. When a mentor openly shares their life story, it is not necessarily the easiest thing to do. However, they share their experiences because a good mentor appreciates just how much it could change your perspective and could inspire you to do so much more with your time. Having a mentor of your own can give you a sense of clarity when you are deciding what path to take.
Ever felt like you're alone in your climb to the top? It is not unusual to feel this way, particularly if you do not have career links within your circle of family and friends. Do you sometimes feel as though your aspirations are so far from society's expectations?
Having a mentor would mean that you have someone familiar with your career path that is willing to offer emotional and moral encouragement. There is someone else out there that has taken a similar path to you, that may have defied society's expectations and has managed to fulfil many of their career aspirations. A mentor can help to identify key indicators and factors for advancement. Most importantly, they can offer you honest constructive criticism of your life plan so far.
What should I do?
There are no particular criteria for you to meet other than to be yourself. The role of a mentor is to give you guidance and support that is based on your unique needs. Therefore, be ready to be open and honest about what you want to become with your mentor.
Taking a proactive approach, and being the driver of the relationship between yourself and your mentor is key. At first, you may not be very confident while trying to take an active role, but in time - with your mentor's help, you will gain the confidence.
Things to do
Make a list of the skills and knowledge you would like to gain
Identify your main aims/goals
Keep track of your progress and report back to your mentor with feedback regularly
Use the resources from Sensei-M and your mentor
Recognise that you also can provide valuable information to your mentor, pass on information you think could be helpful to your mentors
Value the time your mentor dedicates to you
Respect the relationship and work towards nurturing it