Mentorship: How it Can Take You and Your Career to the Next Level
If I go back and think about who my first mentor was it would probably be my dad. My dad taught me a lot growing up and still does to this day. He was a role model for me when I think about what it looks like to live your life the right way, how to conduct yourself, and the importance of working hard. I've also had other mentors at different stages of my life in different areas like school, basketball, and business. Looking back sometimes I didn't even realize what was happening and that they had taken me under their wing and showed me what I needed to do and helped me achieve success. Each mentor has helped me get to the next level, guided me through potential mistakes, and assisted me in closing the gap between where I am right now and where I want to be. It's hard to go through life on your own with no help and things have still been hard even with having mentorship but having one certainly makes it easier! In this post, I want to talk about why mentorship matters and how having the right mentors can make a big difference in your life.
You Don't Need to Do it Alone (Purpose of a Mentor)
For me, a lot of my mentor relationships grew organically, and it was never specifically said, "I am going to be your mentor now." Some ways the relationship can start up is by a mutual connection introducing or maybe you reached out to someone because you have questions. Another way a mentorship can start is if a mentor sees that you have potential, or they see themselves in you. The purpose of a mentor is to have someone who can help you with your overall career and your development. A mentor is usually someone who takes a personal interest in your growth, typically someone higher up in an organization than you or who has more experience than you, but they could also be at the same level. A mentor usually shares information about their own career path, as well as provides guidance, motivation and emotional support. They can help you with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, decision making and identifying resources. The goal of a mentor is to empower the mentee to develop their own skills, strategies, and capabilities so that they are able to tackle the next hurdle more effectively with or without the mentor's presence.
My Mentors and Examples
I have a couple examples of mentors in my life in my 4 major areas, school, basketball, business, and life.
My most recent mentor when it came to school was a lady named Mrs. Thomas. I met her as a senior in high school when I went on one of my visits to Miami and she worked in the business school. When I went to talk to her, I told her I wanted to get in the business school and she immediately started outlining the plan on how to get in, what I needed to do, and who I needed to get in contact with. Once I decided to attend Miami our relationship continued to grow. To get into the business school I needed to take calculus and also have at least a 3.3 to get in. Since I was an athlete and would miss class, she helped me created a plan that would allow me to be successful in that class. By doing that, I was able to get a good grade in the course to keep my GPA high enough to get into the business school. I wouldn't have known my options without her. Throughout the years she's also helped me figure out what classes to take, who to go to for resume help, good organizations to join, and also just general guidance to make the most out of my time at Miami. Without her, I would have struggled a lot more trying to balance basketball and school; she is a great mentor!
My dad ran track but didn't play basketball in high school or college so while he would tell me what he knew about basketball, there was only so much he could give me (and that's no disrespect to him). When it came to basketball, the first true mentor I had was my AAU coach for my last two years, Coach Tim. I remember one of the first things he asked me was, "Do you want to make money playing basketball?" I said yes, and he told me that I would be able to do it. He really showed me what being a basketball player looks like if you want to play at a high level. He gave me a vision of what it could be like and showed me what it takes to make that happen and how much work you have to put. He also challenged me mentally in a way that I hadn't been challenged before, but I needed that to take the next step. He's still someone I ask questions about basketball because he knows a lot more about it than I do, and he is also a great mentor!
I didn't meet my business mentor until this summer. One of my close friends had been introduced to him and told me, "Rod you need to meet this guy." So, I met him and instantly felt that what he was doing was different and I wanted to learn from him. As someone who wants to become an entrepreneur, seeing what he does and explaining the different nuances of business completely blew me away. I knew if I was a sponge around him, I would benefit greatly. I would talk to him about different ideas I had and for one idea he said I needed to write a business plan for it. I had no idea how to write a business plan, but I came up with one and then he gave me feedback on what it really should be as well as other concepts I hadn't even thought of. Because I had to leave to go overseas, I wasn't able to learn from him right up close, but we have monthly phone calls where we discuss different things going on in business and things I need to improve on and change my thinking. He is also a great mentor!
The last mentor is someone I don't know personally but has impacted me greatly and his name is Eric Thomas. You might know him as the guy behind, "When you want to breathe as bad as you want to succeed, then you will be successful." Since I've been overseas it has definitely been a grind and a journey, but he's been guiding me along the way. A lot of the times when I'm going through something and need some direction, I can find an ET video to get me right. He's gotten me through ups, downs, and made sure I'm staying focused on the task at hand. If I feel like I'm slacking or need a boost ET is right there to get me going. He may never know the profound impact he's had on me and what his words have helped me get through, but he is also a great mentor!
I wanted to share some personal stories of mentors because I want to show the great impact they've had on my life. As I continue to grow, I'm sure some of my mentor relationships will evolve and I hope to become a mentor to other people also. When the day comes where it all comes full circle, I'll be able to draw on these experiences and help pave the way for others! Share in the comment section below one of your favorite mentors and what they've taught you!
“What Is the Role of a Mentor?” Office of Minority Affairs Diversity, www.washington.edu/doit/what-role-mentor.
“Centre for Lifelong Learning.” Nick Vaughan-Williams, warwick.ac.uk/study/cll/courses/professionaldevelopment/wmcett/resources/practitionerarea/mentoring/what/purposes/.