Written by Julianne Carson
Today I’m commissioned with writing an article on mentoring. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m as cranky as a hen, especially toward the nice young lady who I am meant to be mentoring. Maybe it’s hormonal. Maybe I’m on a bit of a crash from all the stress of launching a new product. But, no matter the reason, all I want to do right now is close myself in my room for the rest of the day and watch old Star Trek episodes.
Human interaction is hard.
I never knew that so keenly until I decided to collaborate on professional creative endeavors with a team of my friends. And even more so since taking on the mantle of mentoring.
Relating with people means dealing with their issues. And, perhaps even more daunting, being a mentor forces you to deal with your own issues. It’s hard when I’m chatting with someone I mentor not to put all of my biases, and self-protective vows on them. A guy cheated on me, so I lecture them about how men can’t necessarily be trusted. I’ve decided that college was a waste of my time, and that belief system comes out in my conversations and advice. When I realize that my words and my life are not setting the example that I want them to, I am forced to reevaluate myself.
Maybe you don’t feel like a mentor. Maybe your shortcomings seem to outweigh your expertise. I know mine do. There are days I feel like I have nothing to offer at all. Jeff asked me recently how I would sum up mentoring, if I could plaster it on a billboard. I said rather instinctively: Share your failures.
Sharing your failures.
The best advice I have for anyone, whether it be professional or personal, was born out my own stupid mistakes.
- I dated the guy that I shouldn’t have and paid the price for it.
- I was too scared to take risks and got stuck doing work that I hated.
- I thought I knew better than God did for my life, and my pride caused me to fall.
When I sit down with someone who is having relationship problems, or wondering how to excel creatively, I am positively brimming with stories of my failure, and how I overcame.
The most beautiful part about it: I have compassion and grace for their situation that I never would have had unless I had stumbled there myself.
Becoming a mentor.
You may never have someone approach you, asking you to mentor them. It isn’t because they don’t need it and wouldn’t love it. It’s mostly because mentoring just isn’t “a thing” in our culture right now. We are independent and self-sufficient, or so we think.
It’s also because no one wants to be an imposition. I promise you there are people in your life right this minute who look up to you. They would love to gleen from your wisdom. But they don’t want to be a burden.
Approach someone. Pray, contemplate, meditate on it, even ask for it. See if someone doesn’t pop up who is an obvious choice. Choose someone who you believe in. Someone who maybe reminds you of yourself from years past. I know I would have given anything for someone to come along side me when I was younger, and show me the ropes. I hungered for that.
Yup, it sure is. And it’s also emotionally draining sometimes, if you’re doing it right. But the rewards are immeasurable. To invest in another human, to save them the pain you had to suffer, to see them succeed and even carry on your legacy…well, there’s no drug like it on the planet.
One way to save yourself some headaches is to set very clear expectations with your mentee. Let them know what kind of time you can give them, and ask them to be clear about their goals. If they aren’t ready to take initiative and responsibility for their own growth, they are probably not ready to be in a mentoring relationship.
Give it all.
Ideally, you will mentor someone you grow to trust, someone you respect, and even love. Sharing your mistakes is just the beginning of the vulnerability that mentoring requires. Don’t be afraid. The more of your heart you are willing to share (while keeping healthy boundaries, of course) the more you will impact their life.
Teach them skills they lack. Share insider knowledge that would save them tons of time. Explain how you’ve had to wrestle with moral issues and decisions that affected your whole family. Tell them that you believe in them. Watch their life and business change for the better.
And be encouraged; as a mentor, your struggles and mistakes and days when you didn’t want to get out of bed were not for nothing.