What’s Mentoring?

We have just kicked off The Mentoring Experiment after talking about it for months. There has been a lot of interest and quite a few applications submitted. We’ve even had a lot of people ask if we needed help mentoring people, which is great. If you’re interested, you still have a couple days to submit an application.

The past week or two, after getting started, I’ve been surprised just how often I’ve seen or heard the word “mentoring” used in many ways. I’ve seen it talked about on TV, on the radio, and in various Internet spots. It’s almost like our experiment kicked off a slew of other projects from other people. That’s not the case, and my guess is I’m a little more aware of how often mentoring is used by various people.


Webster’s dictionary says that a mentor servers as a guide or advisor. Wikipedia sees a mentor as a counselor, friend, or teacher that helps to advise a protégé or serve as an example.

Those tend to fit my definition which is someone that is providing some counsel, advice, and perspective to another in a way that has the best interests of the mentee or protégé at heart. It’s private, at least to the extent that the mentee wants it private, and there isn’t any exchange of money or quid pro quo for the time. It’s a volunteer effort on the part of the mentor.

Mentoring is part setting that example in your own career, which allows the mentor to help the mentee learn from experience. This experience and wisdom should establish the respect that is needed for the mentee to take a mentor’s advice under advisement. Mentoring is also acting as a sounding board, almost as a psychiatrist does, in listening to the mentee, asking questions, and helping to give an outside perspective on a situation or decision. 

A mentor should act as a guide, helping and leading, but not setting the direction or goals, but helping the mentee to find their own way to a better career.

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