Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The importance of having mentors

At this point, we all have the image of the wise martial arts master parting their wisdom with their student, who is unwise to the twists and turns of life. At first, the student is sceptical; however, when at their lowest point, they wisely heed the advice of their wise master. They are lucky to have this wise master, otherwise, they would never be able to succeed in their struggle. If you think there is a lot of wisdom in that, likewise.

Annoying puns aside, that is the image we conjure up when we think of a mentor. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it isn’t accurate either. A mentor could be anybody and often the mentor-mentee relationship is a small part of a larger more complicated interpersonal relationship. Chances are, we have all had many mentors throughout our lives. Granted the mentor-mentee relationship wasn’t clearly defined. Think back to primary school, do you remember the ‘cool’ kid that gave all the teachers trouble? Ignoring how much money that poor kid had to spend on therapy since then, many of their classmates would try to emulate them. Or in high school, the seniors who were only a year older, but they would speak to you like they’ve been through two wars and are imparting their wisdom with young cadets. To be fair, that is what high school feels like. Nonetheless, these represent examples of a mentor-mentee dynamic. A dynamic because the interpersonal relationship is much broader, and the mentorship is but a small part of it.

Chances are, we have all had many mentors throughout our lives

An example of an important and consequential mentor-mentee relationship is that between a teacher and their student. From primary school to high school, students form a bond with their teachers, as the former are, to varying degrees, seeking validation from the latter. According to research, when that bond is positive, students flourish, gain confidence and perform well, not only academically, but socially as well. We can all think back to a time where having an understanding teacher would have helped. While every teacher may have their own teaching style, they mustn’t forget the power they wield over their students. It is only natural that a student would look up to their teacher, as they look to be successful, well adjusted, and problem-free. Of course, this is only because adulthood seems so far away thus any adult seems to be like they are on top of things. Luckily, Twitter is proving this to be untrue. Furthermore, to students, teachers hold all the answers, quite literally.

A perhaps more crucial mentor relationship is the one between parents and their children. While it is cool and trendy to complain about parents, sometimes with good reason, there is no denying that children need their parents, not only as providers of food and shelter, but also as mentors. As kids, we see our parents as all-knowing. Thus, their approval is something we all seek. The inability to obtain said approval is what therapists rely on to generate clients. The absence of one or both parental figures is detrimental to a young child’s development. That is not to say that raising a child as a single parent is impossible or wrong, it is simply just more challenging. Often the parent that stays must compensate for the other parent’s absence. Nonetheless, the complicated relationship between parents and their children is the clearest example of a mentor-mentee relationship observable. This becomes clearer as both parties grow older, and the children grow out of their rebellious phase – and we use the word ‘phase’ lightly.

Although there is no easy way to success, find a good mentor who understands you and your ambitions and eventually you will get to where you want to be

Of course, there are also distinctions between informal and formal mentors. At the start of your career, it is especially helpful to have a mentor with a wealth of experience to guide and help you kickstart your career. Internship experiences are a great way for you to find a work mentor. Not only do mentors help you develop professionally, they also encourage your personal growth by pushing you beyond your limitis and stretching you to your fullest potential. As an intern, you need to be proactive in seeking opportunites as well as taking the initative to network with more senior colleagues. Most importantly, you should strive to understand their career journey and use their experiences to inform your decisions about your own career. Form lasting connections with your line manager – they can be a great first source of support. In addition, being an intern puts you in the best position to be inquisitive and ask questions. As Camilla Sutton says: the role that mentors play in your career is critically important. Although there is no easy way to success, find a good mentor who understands you and your ambitions and eventually you will get to where you want to be.

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