Have you had one of those special moments recently, that you will never forget? Mine was flying back from an incredible conference in Atlanta two weeks ago.
After a stop-over in Washington, I boarded the next plane and saw to my surprise, that I knew one of the stewardesses. She is the mother of a 14 year old boy, who I have been mentoring during this school year. It was incredible, she did everything she could to make my flight a great experience. I’ve never felt so spoilt and at the same time so lucky because, I knew she did this because, she was grateful for my connection with her son. Just before and during landing I was invited into the cockpit. What a view!
Being a mentor – I think is a bit like being a co-pilot. You will help them hold the course that he/she sets. There will be bright sunny moments – times to celebrate and also turbulence - where you have to trust your instinct, that you are doing your best.
There’s a lot of research about how making a positive difference to other people, will bring joy to both of you and affect your own physical and mental health in a good way. I like how some say: “Volunteering can therefore be the most selfless way to be selfish”.
Being on that plane was just very special and a bit unusual, as the positive payback and feeling came back very intense and almost directly from the ‘source’. Following are a some of my own observations and advice, if you have ever thought about being a mentor.
Things to consider when being a mentor
1. Professional relationship with a personal connection
I have been a mentor through an organisation twice - both for young people. The first time the relationship ended almost before it really started. Most of my time, was spend trying to figure out why mentee didn’t show up at the agreed time and place. This time spend will never come back and I remember being dissapointed, that it didn’t work out and also spending hours thinking about, what I could have done differently. I think it taught me some very important lessons. One of them being that despite my best intentions and a real wish to make a difference, that in it self cannot ensure success – ‘it takes two to tango’. So make sure you have a professional commitment, and don’t take rejection personal.
2. Commitment and time
Yes there are times, when it is less convenient, and it is really important, that you consider which signal you want to send mentee, when showing up, rescheduling and/or cancelling meetings. Not surprising – research shows that meeting up regularly for up to 12 months has a much greater effect, than shorter periods.
3. Find an organisation you want to support and believe in.
Due to confidentiality getting the support from them can prove invaluable, especially when things are a little challenging. I also like the frame it puts around the relationship with menthe. I’ve also been a mentor for an adult for 6 months, doing it on my own – without an organisation, and that was harder than expected. Clear guidelines and rules beforehand as well as goals and purpose are good learning points here.
4. Just do it – don’t overthink it.
Whether or not you want to be a professional mentor – just do good for others. I recently heard a commencement speech by Jim Carrey and he said something that really relates to this. “The effect you have on others, is the most valuable currency there is”. And I would like to add – You will learn a lot about yourself in the process.