Mentoring

I’m speaking at a panel tonight at the Marymount Manhattan College’s Psychology Alumni Societyon Women and Holistic Leadership.  The topic is Mentoring. I’m curious to see what I learn, and in the interim, here some thoughts on the topic. 

I’ve met some pretty fantastic people, men and women, both in my personal and professional lives. Some I only realized later had been mentors; some were clearly in a mentor role to me from the start. I thrive to emulate what I admire or value in a mentor the most and try to apply it to my own live where possible. I feel however, being “infatuated” with a person and wanting to be just like your mentor, no questions asked, is not a mentor relationship, that’s just being a groupie or member of a fan club.

Important is chemistry and the sense of giving, and that giving in my opinion goes both ways. I’ve learned as much from my mentees as I hope they have learned from me.  I think the mentor should be as excited about mentoring you as you should be being mentored.

Most important you need to be open to receive and listen and mentorships can be very fleeting relationships. Sometimes the best advice comes packaged as a throwaway conversation at a nail salon.  Like the stranger whom I asked if she had tried the hairdresser’s services at the salon where we were having our nails dried.  She turned to me with a look of disbelieve and said: 

“I’m telling you something really important even if it doesn’t seem like it right now you’ll be thinking of me later; never get your hair cut where you love getting your nails done.”  I through the woman had a screw loose and thought nothing of it.  Not three weeks later her words came back to me after a horrible experience with my super’s wife botching my laundry and I could not only not complain, did I ever want anything fixed in my apartment gain, it took months to extract myself tactfully from that relationship and may ruined laundry items.  

Since then I have held this woman’s advice in high esteem and have shared it.  I call it advice that creeps up on you, much like your mother’s advice you never heeded until you had the experience yourself.   

In an ideal world a mentor lives an experience with you and helps you understand and digest it rather than tell you the outcome.  A mentor is also your advocate within a certain situation – be it in a creative, personal or professional setting. And I have mentored young people who now mentor me.  So the moral of the story is: mentor today’s assistant as they might be mentoring you in the future. 

As for the women vs. men mentoring: I’m an equal opportunity mentor and mentee. Maybe women get the nurturing part down better, but I’ve had the good fortune of some fantastic mentors and mentees of all ages, genders (known and not yet known), creeds, shapes, sizes and backgrounds and I’m deeply thankful to all of them.