The mentoring process in real life
As amazing as the Internet is, meeting in person, over the phone or video conversation is far superior. For one, the people behind the online smoke screen can’t read you.
In other words, even if they genuinely want to help, they might not be able to. Your emotions, mannerisms, tendencies, and habits won’t be apparent online. In my trolling example for Mentoring for Introverts, I thought I was talking to someone in crisis. In the end, this person was having fun, but there was no way to know for sure, so I gave him my time.
I’m not a mentor or a coach. I don’t play one on the Internet either. I do believe in the mentoring process and the relationship between a coach and a coachee. I also believe having a mentor has a direct correlation to success.
Timing and Action in the mentoring process
You can read blogs all day long, and you may get some valuable information from them. But when should you implement this value? Based on your circumstances what actions should you take and in what order? I love Youtube just as much as the next person. However, these small tidbits of information have the potential to overwhelm rather than help your situation. Becoming overwhelmed is particularly the case if it’s new territory for you. A mentor can be a light in an otherwise dark and dank tunnel with no end in sight.
The artificial mentor
I consider a lot of people mentors. People like Beyonce, Oprah and Berne Brown each in their way have made an impact on me. Strange combination I know, but as individuals, they speak to me. I’m sure you have a few of these on your radar as well. These people represent an absolute idealism that we aspire to achieve.
Although I read their books and listen to their music, there’s no relationship there. I don’t know the genuine person, and they don’t know me. You could argue the same for other relationships you’ve formed online. The relationship is not real until they’re up close and personal. The mentoring process begins with a relationship. There’s an understanding of your needs as the mentee.
Picking up on emotions that are unique to you
It’s difficult to detect human emotion without deliberate intentions to do so. It’s far too easy to hide emotion online. During the mentoring process, your mentor picks up on things about you that no one online notices.
Meeting Your Mentor
Communicate with your mentor or a coach over the phone, Skype, at lunch. Make it possible to for the other person to sense things from your gestures and mannerisms. Even an inflection in your voice can cause your mentor to take notice of something you need.
A mock mentor like Beyonce and Berne Brown can’t help you find your weaknesses. These artificial mentors embody idealism and give you generalizations for the human condition. You are one individual, you don’t represent the masses. A real mentor can help you even when you’re not aware of the deficiencies, just by picking up your cues.
A mentor, during the mentoring process, will hold you accountable. They hold you responsible for either pursuing or changing blocks that hold you back. This person will push you to search yourself until you get it, the Internet won’t do this for you. There’s no accountability, and it’s too easy to make excuses.
Those who have been where you are, are the next best thing to a time machine. Listen to what these individuals have to say. If you take good advice and heed their warnings, you will be so far ahead of the game.
These people who have been there and done that are important in giving you a glimpse into the future. They are a guide through mistakes and light on a dark path. These are the significant benefits of the mentoring process. You get a time machine and a friend all wrapped up in one.
People get stuck after too many setbacks. A big reason they don’t move forward with their dreams is that they’ve lost confidence. They talk themselves down after failure. Every time, chipping and wearing at their trust in themselves. The little monster comes out, the inner critic. That voice can be brutal.
A mentor can guide you in learning from your mistakes and encourage you to take a different approach. When you feel alone, you may let your emotions get the best of you. It’s easy to fall into dwelling on what went wrong rather than staying the course.
Having someone who’s been there to bounce things off of can bring you back in focus. For one, they’ve already done it, and it’s not a big deal to them anymore.
Second, they will give you validation that your failure is a lesson. Even the best of us go through failure at one point or another. It’s reassuring to know that someone who has succeeded has been where you are now. That person is supporting you.
Third, you’re good enough to get a mentors attention and talk them into mentoring you. If you’ve done that, you have what it takes to succeed.
Why the personal mentoring process is better than social media
Let’s be clear when I say “personal” I’m not talking about emails back and forth or DM’s on Twitter. I’m talking about Skype calls, phone calls and personal visits if you’re lucky enough to live in the same area. You can’t hide in this way. The other person hears your voice, sees your face and gets your vibe. The point is, we need people, we need contact, you won’t get a personal connection from email.
You can get good quality advice on social media, on forums and other platforms.
They don’t know you.
We tend to tell people only what we want them to hear. This tendency to want to look good all the time defeats the purpose.
Okay, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We tell the truth, no matter the judgment in a public forum for all to see. What we say still gets misinterpreted. If we’re in a very honest mood one day, we say things no one wants to hear and that stuff is out there forever. All because of one off day.
So why does any of this matter?
Your internet friends, don’t know you. They don’t have those personal queues and any reference to you other than what you want them to see. Nor you to them.
People want to give their opinion or provide general help. Say you’re looking for advice about career changes after fifty. It could be a twenty-year-old still in college working their first job behind that forum post. You never know. Most of the time, people are too busy to notice the difference or even care.
How to find a mentor
The mentoring process starts with finding a mentor. Talk to people and be patient. Finding a mentor is not something that happens overnight. You build this relationship over time.
If you do your work primarily online, there are plenty of websites dedicated to the mentor/mentee relationship I’ve listed a few here so you can see what’s available.
If you want to be a mentor, these sites are geared toward teens and young adults
When you find chemistry with someone, you’ll know they’re right for you, and they’ll go out of their way to help you. Not because you asked but because they want to. In some ways this is like dating, sometimes it finds you, sometimes you have to go out and look. When it’s right, it’s right no matter how you get there.
Don’t feel pressured into finding someone to help you. Talk to many different people, ask questions, interview them. Do whatever you can to start building the relationship.
Know what you want and express it
As an introvert, I don’t like small talk. The worst part of a relationship is getting to know someone. But becoming comfortable with someone doesn’t happen without all the pleasantries.
To make this easier on yourself, be specific about what you want from the mentoring process. If you know what you want you won’t waste time with people that are not meant for you. To find the best possible fit, the mentor has to give you what you need, not just what they know.
Your mentor can only give you what you need if you’re genuine and specific about your goals. You also have to pursue the right people.
How can you support the desired mentor
Since this is like dating or finding any other friend for that matter, it’s best to be supportive. Like their tweets, share their work and ask them questions along the way, then see where it goes.
I don’t have time for this mentoring stuff
If you don’t have the time or the energy to sift through all the small talk for a mentor hire a coach. Yes, there is money involved, but a coach can do wonders to move you forward in your career, life, and business. You just might end up with a friend in the end.
How to be a mentor
Becoming the mentor in the mentoring process is very different but just as rewarding. If you have the genuine desire to help someone, become a mentor. If it makes you feel good to give up your time for this person that’s a great start. All it takes is a desire and a commitment to your mentee.
If it feels like a burden, don’t do it. Here are a few more things to think about before accepting the responsibility.
1. Lead by example. Make sure your mindset and emotional intelligence are up to par before giving advice. You will become more open minded by acknowledging and controlling your emotions. Emotional intelligence secure in this kind of relationship.
2. Ask a lot of questions before offering advice. You don’t want to fall by way of the Internet guru. You’re helping one specific person with specific circumstances. Make sure you understand the situation first.
3. Be truthful. The best lessons come from your mistakes. Your mentee will respect the fact that you overcame difficult hurdles. Those failures and the ability to conquer them are what qualifies you to guide someone else. Use your knowledge and pay it forward.
Traditions of the Mentoring process
Whether your goal is to become a mentor or to find one keep an open mind. The world is changing. Mentors and mentees come in all ages, genders, and ethnicity. No matter the age or background, they come with an entire arsenal of powerful experience.
If you are looking for a mentor, don’t overlook someone younger than you are. These days age difference doesn’t mean anything. This logic applies in particular if you’re going through a career change. In this case, your mentor will likely be younger than you are and that’s okay. You may have a world of experience but the young mentor has particular experience, and that’s what you need.
Alternatively, if you want to become a mentor the above applies to you as well. Reverse mentoring is gaining traction. It makes sense, younger people during the technological age can teach so much to older generations but both the young mentor and the older mentee have to get past the mindset that a mentor should be older and therefore more experienced. More experienced at some things, sure but the world has changed drastically age is no longer a factor. It should never have been. There’s no reason why mentor someone older than you has to be awkward. For the very reasons stated above, sharing your expertise is blind to age, gender, ethnicity or any other bias. Don’t let these culture issues keep you from sharing something valuable.