Here’s the deal, mentorship / mentee-ship, well it’s a funny relationship.
The absolute bottom line, yep, starting with the bottom line today, is that mentorship is a mutual relationship. It must be reciprocal. It must be honest. It must be fluid.
Taking a step back, I have experience in both being a mentor and a mentee and I can say not all mentor / mentee relationships are created equal. Though they may not all be created equal, they are all, unequivocally, valuable. No matter the path through a mentorship relationship, there are always lessons learned, valuable lessons at that.
So here I am, talking mentorship, but rather, I am proposing a new style of mentorship. When I think mentorship of old; I think of hierarchy, I think of age gaps, I think old school, I think experience versus inexperience, I think one “better” than the other. But, here’s what I’ve learned about mentorship, none of that applies. In real, honest, growth and mentorship relationships all the rules are thrown out the window immediately.
Modern Mentorship looks a lot like friendship. It looks a lot like a conversation over a cup of coffee or lunch. It looks a lot like trust. It looks a lot like valuable opinions openly shared. It looks a lot like an openness for feedback. It looks a lot like hundreds of WhatsApp messages. It looks a lot like less expectation and more appreciation. It looks a lot like fluidity. It looks a lot like mutual respect. It looks a lot like a natural progression. It looks a lot like equality. It looks a lot like conversation.
Mentorship defined: the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor.
Mentor defined: a trusted counselor or guide.
So how does one tackle Modern Mentorship as a female? Bit by bit really.
Jim Rohn (motivational speaker and self-help guru) has made it known that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Whether this be 100% accurate or a bit off base, there is truth in that we become like the people we spend the most time with. They can elevate us or they can bring us down. Have you ever been around someone negative and felt yourself becoming more negative? Alternatively, have you ever been part of a group of insanely awesome people with positive energy and good vibes and noticed your personal vibe improving? It is a natural process. It is a logical assumption. We are influenced by the people we surround ourselves with.
Modern Mentorship 101 (for females):
- Get comfortable with the art of building relationships. Modern Mentorship starts with relationship building. Asking questions, engaging another, having a bit of courage to start the conversation. Modern Mentorship is truly an art in developing relationships. Having directly asked someone to be my mentor and having engaged in a conversation with someone who had visible expertise, I can say without a doubt, engaging in a conversation with someone always resulted in a more valuable experience and a longer relationship. Really, Modern Mentorship is removing the word Mentor from ones vernacular.
- Enjoy the natural evolution of the relationship. Don’t seek mentorship, rather, let mentorship relationships evolve naturally. This requires patience and having patience is an art in-and-of itself. Authenticity in this relationship is the key to its success. Forcing mentorship usually creates a very unnatural hierarchy, pressure that builds tension and a short term solution to the long term goal.
- Engage in mutual respect. Whether you are the one seeking knowledge or more importantly you are the one carrying the knowledge, be respectful. Many quotes come to mind when I think of the mutual respect needed to truly engage in Modern Mentorship:
“We rise by lifting others.”
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”
“Girls compete, women empower.”
“Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown without telling the world it was crooked.”
Let’s be honest, women lifting women is easy to get behind, but sometimes hard to achieve. Not because intuitively a woman does not want to see another woman succeed. But, rather, because for a woman to succeed she has had to fight, sacrifice, compete, compromise and lose a bit of herself on levels a man does not. For a woman to get to where she has gotten she has to sacrifice so much, there is fear in letting go of that success, even for another woman. The only way to change the cycle of fear is to face it and allow other women to rise along side of one another. “There’s room for all of us.”
- Understand all parties bring unique knowledge to the conversation. One of the most beautiful parts of Modern Mentorship is the fact that everyone has value to share and give. Both parties, all parties, all bring value. The best Modern Mentorships are the ones that thrive in mutual sharing and learning.
- Learn to go with the flow. Modern Mentorships are fluid. The old adage, “people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime,” holds true within this scenario as well. This quote brings the mentorship conversation full circle. Whether people come into our lives for a reason (to glean knowledge from), a season (to join our journey for a longer period of time) or a lifetime (you never know the friendships and partnerships that may develop) everyone that crosses our path has a purpose, it is our job to be open to the lessons and bonds each relationship provides.
A few ideas of what a Modern Mentorship is:
- A sound board in the chaos
- A voice of guidance
- A confidant to bat ideas off of
- A lighthouse in the storm
- A voice of reason
- A cheerleader
- A friend
- A provision of a nugget of knowledge
- A grain of salt to add to your knowledge
A few ideas of what a Modern Mentorship is not:
- The end all be end all
- The right answer to everything
- The only source of knowledge
- A bottomless pit of availability
- The only resource available
Ladies, you probably have a few, if not a handful, of women you trust with your ideas, fears and accomplishments. Honor theme, give energy to the relationship you have, make time for those people in your life. Continually bring ideas to the conversation. Give as much as you take. Learn as much as you teach. Laugh as much as you worry. And love one another like sister so that you can rise together!