Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Gift of Mentoring

To ''win'' a mentee spot at my company, I had to read a book, write goals, and fill out an application for the lottery. And I won! But the process didn't end there.

With my golden ticket in hand, I traveled to London for a one-day mentoring seminar with speeches, goal-rewriting, and more form-filling … before meeting my mentor for one hour.

Does it have to be that complicated?

Yes ... if you think about a mentor as a protege, master, teacher, or coach. Yes, if you take a glance at the long list of books on the subject.

No ... if you think of being a mentor as a … gift.

Like a gift, mentoring should be from the heart, free of charge, and chosen with care. The most important part is choosing with care, figuring out the wants and needs of a mentee.

Most of us are terrible gift-givers. If you're like me, you give gifts you want to receive yourself. It's human nature. It's harder to get to know the person, and give them what they truly desire—and even harder to give them what they really need.

And what mentees need more often than not is the bigger picture.

The first thing my mentor did was to throw out my goals. I was aghast! 

Let's just talk, she said. Well, I talked and she listened, for the most part. Mainly about corporate culture and how to navigate it. She helped me see the bigger picture, and in doing so, helped me reach my goals.

What a gift !

Under this model of mentoring, a mentor need not be a manager or best in class, just be in a position to give. It's that simple.

Rose Marie Burke is a mentor with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Vice President of Mentoring at Paris Speech Masters. An editor and journalist, she writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home."