By Gina Blitstein
Finding the right mentor/mentee match is key to having a successful mentoring experience. While mentoring is usually examined from the viewpoint of the recipient and what she is gleaning from the process, it’s interesting to hear about mentoring from the perspective of a mentor, who is an equally crucial factor in the mentoring equation.
Thursday Bram is a writer, consultant to creative entrepreneurs and founder of HyperModern Consulting who has benefited from both sides of the mentoring relationship. In the continuation of an interview with her, Thursday discusses the way she sees herself in the role of mentor.
How do you see your responsibilities as a mentor?
I'm a resource. In many ways, that's it. I'm not going to push anyone to actually take action on their business or anything else like that and I'm definitely not going to do the work for anyone — I'm not anyone's mom or anything like that. I'm happy to talk through specific situation, make introductions and lend books. Beyond that, what I consider my specific responsibilities tend to depend on what someone needs. Some people just need to be told over and over that something's going to work. Other people need nuts-and-bolts guidance. It just depends.
What are your particular strengths as a mentor?
My background as a writer is a key strength. Because of the number of interviews I've done over the years, I have a bulging Rolodex — I can almost always make a valuable introduction. I also can point to the many books I've read and reviewed or talk about other resources with relative ease. I've got a great memory for all sorts of unusual information.
What do you think was the most insightful mentoring you ever gave?
After a conversation with me, a mentee threw out almost a year's worth of work. That was a good thing — the discussion made it really clear what she needed for her planned business to be a success and the circumstances that she needed just weren't going to happen. Sometimes, you have to be aware that the best solution is failure, if only so that you can move on to something that will work better.
How many have you mentored?
I've had about a dozen long-term mentorship-style relationships. But I've also had hundreds of individual conversations that served similar purposes.
On what topics have you mentored?
I almost always focus my mentorships on entrepreneurship (including freelancing). I'm passionate about the topic and I want every new business owner to succeed, so it's the best fit.
How has being a mentor impacted your life and career?
I've made business decisions (like creating a website specifically geared towards freelancers) on the basis of discussions that I've had with mentees.
What would be your advice to someone who wanted to become a mentor?
Make sure you see a benefit in becoming a mentor. It can be a huge time commitment and you need to feel like it's a good thing for you to do in the long-term. That benefit certainly doesn't have to be tangible — it can be something as simple as feeling that you're paying forward the help you received in the past. But you can't just set out with a vague idea that mentorship is going to make you feel good.
Thursday’s perspective on being a mentor, in general is:
- Good mentors have often been mentored by good mentors themselves, so they closely relate to the mentee, her challenges and perspective.
- Mentoring should be an organic and natural relationship - not forced.
- Find a mentor who is able and willing to give you what you need in the way that you want it.
- Your mentor should be a resource for you, to help connect you with information and people who will serve you in your career development.
- Mentors can help you see what works - and what doesn’t for you.
- Finding a mentor who has experience - at least in a broad sense - in what you seek to accomplish makes sense for you both.
- Sometimes the mentee inspires the mentor.
- The most effective mentors go into it with a desire to make a difference in the life of the mentee, not for personal reward or self-aggrandizement.
Mentoring isn’t always a formal relationship - in fact, that’s probably a good thing in many cases. Since you’re primarily receiving an willing ear, some wise comments and some helpful resources, you’re free to make your own decisions based upon interactions with your mentor. In that sense, mentors facilitate the process of creating you a better professional you, by virtue of their experience. That empowerment can’t be obtained through any other type of professional relationship
How has your mentor made you a better professional you?