What it means to be a mentor

I challenge you to think of a time when someone has been a mentor to you. Many of us think about a time in our life when we weren’t sure of the direction we wanted to go in or weren’t confident in our skillset to tackle a problem. According to Merriam-Webster the official definition of a mentor is, “anyone who is a positive, guiding influence in another person’s life.” From my experience, a mentor serves a multitude of purposes. They are good to bounce ideas off, rant to, and troubleshoot obstacles. Each day we find ourselves reaching out to our mentors while also serving as one.  

Here are five attributes that make a successful mentor: 

  1. Share their knowledge while staying humble 

The reason many of us turn to our mentors is because they know everything. They are the expert in the field and have the training to help us succeed. After all, that’s why we resort to our mentors for advice. However, a good mentor doesn’t parade around their knowledge. If a mentor acted in this manner it would make them less relatable and minimize the challenges of the mentee. A mentor works to share their knowledge by making the mentee feel that they’ve had the knowledge all along. They should utilize their knowledge to enlighten others. 
 

2. Your biggest cheerleader and accountability partner 

A mentor should support you in your positive actions and hold you accountable for your negative actions. This can be the trickiest part of being a mentor because it can be difficult to find a good balance. It is important to provide support and guidance. A mentor should stand by you when you take on a new project or hobby. They should also encourage you when you decide you need to professionally assert yourself. When you do not meet the expectations required of you, then your mentor should remind you of your purpose and provide accountability. Your mentor should be there for you through all your ups and downs and encourage you to reach your full potential.  
 

3. Guide your decisions but ultimately let you make it for yourself 

Sometimes we find ourselves at a crossroad. A mentor should not tell you exactly what route to take. Instead, they should empower you to make your own decisions. Mentors are there to serve and to help you to identify pros and cons that may not have been considered beforehand. When considering a hard decision, it can be frustrating to the mentee when their mentor looks back at them with a blank face. However, empowering someone to make their own decisions will benefit them in the end.  
 

4. See your perspective 

This may take some time, but a mentor should know you well enough to see and understand your perspective. They should understand how you perceive the world and its challenges. Having this connection allows your mentor to best guide you. Regardless of the relationship with your mentor, they should understand your point of view and be accepting of it. 

5. Push you out of your comfort zone 

A mentor should try to push you out of your comfort zone when the time is appropriate. Nobody grows by staying in the scope of what they already know. A good mentor will encourage you to take risks. It is important for the mentor to know their mentee and ensure that they don’t push them too far outside of their boundaries or give them a task too big to tackle. 
 

6. Be a role model 

A mentor should serve as a role model and who you strive to be. A role model is someone that you are inspired by and you would like to follow in their footsteps. It is important for a mentor to display characteristics that the mentee feels are desirable. This ensures that the mentee is confidant and empowered by their mentor.  

In our lives, we all will have the opportunity to be mentored and to mentor someone else. I am so grateful for my mentors such as my mom, sister, supervisors, and past LCs. These experiences help to guide us and shape our lives. It is important to build a mentor/mentee relationship and be confident in your abilities along the way. We should all strive to be a positive and guiding influence in another person’s life. 

LAlex’s Bio: 

As a leadership consultant, Alex supervises activities of assigned collegiate chapters; partners with volunteers and staff to implement an execute chapter development efforts; directs, teaches, advises and consults with chapter members in the areas of recruitment and chapter operations. Alex is from the Zeta Sigma Chapter at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Go Blazers! When she was a collegiate member she served for two years as Vice President of Philanthropic Services, a Resident Assistant, and started a Genetic Counseling club. One thing you may not know about Alex is that she wrote her final paper in college about how the evolution of memes is related to genetics. 

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