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Aug 18, 2020

Who is a mentor and what does a mentor do?

This new title is growing in popularity everyday, but what is a mentor, what are they not, and who can be one? Some people say a mentor is like a magician that can make incredible changes at the wave of a magic wand, but that isn’t really the case. Let’s dive right in to discover who a mentor really is and what they actually do. 

If we turn to the Cambridge dictionary, then we get the following definition: "a mentor is a person who gives a younger, or less experienced person, help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school".

Quite a simple explanation. But in these words lies the truth of what a mentor is. A mentor: is not a magician who solves problems, but they are someone who watches over and teaches others how to solve problems on their own. 

The following can be said about a mentor: a mentor is not a construction team that will build a house for you, but they are a set of construction tools that you can use to build a house.

How does a mentor differ from a teacher, coach or trainer?

There are many different ideas on what a ‘mentor’ is, and the majority of the time the name ‘mentor’ is confused with names like, “teacher”, “coach”, and “trainer”. In some respects, all these titles do a similar job. But we have studied and narrowed down these titles in order to understand what the fundamental differences are.

Here are our definitions of each title:

“A teacher is someone whose job is to teach, especially in a school or college” (Cambridge dictionary).

“Coaching is when a coach advises a trainee on a specific issue in order for the trainee to achieve a specific goal.”

“Trainer is often the title given to someone in the physical education field, or a specialist in a particular sport. A trainer conducts work that is aimed at educating, training and improving the skills of athletes, and developing their physical capabilities."

It is clear that the trainer is related to sports. A teacher is a provider of knowledge, theoretical foundations and axioms, and their goal is to motivate and inspire individuals. In principle, the coach does the same, but their goal is to provide all the knowledge they have in the framework of a specific issue. 

A mentor, according to that definition, is a relentless overseer, who combines the functions of a teacher and a coach, but at the same time he or she is focused on achieving a goal.

Here is a simple comparison: 

Imagine you want to take part in a car race. The teacher will tell you which car to choose and how to prepare. The coach will tell you which race you can take part in, taking into account your skill, and your physical capabilities, they will also come with you to give you motivational support before the competition. The mentor will literally “ride” with you through the race right until the end.

This explanation, of course, is not the only one. And it in no way claims that the roles of "teacher", "trainer", "coach" are insufficient, and are not important. The titles are all different, and are applicable at different stages of the learning process, and they all have a different purpose.

Where to find a mentor

You might think that only individuals who are higher in status, are successful, and have a wealth of experience can be mentors. Of course, this statement isn’t absolutely wrong, but it isn’t absolutely correct either. 

We can find a mentor anywhere, and it can be anyone that we deem acceptable! 

A mentor is a person who must inspire us. And we can all be inspired by completely different people. Who says that Mr. Smith from nextdoor can’t be a mentor. If listening to his philosophical ideas in the evenings gets you excited and inspired,  then why not have him as a mentor? Perhaps Mr Smith is able to answer some of your burning questions, and you feel a closeness and a bond with him. 

On the other hand, if you’re an individual looking for a general mentor you are really unlikely to find a mentor in a mentoring agency, where you will have to choose the right person from a list. 

A mentor should be someone who inspires you and has experience in the field you want to be mentored in.

Understanding  mentoring

When you take your first step on the road to somewhere completely new you might be overwhelmed by new emotions and experiences. In fact, not everyone who sets out on these roads manages to reach the end, especially if the road you're on is all about learning a new profession. After all, at every step there may be pitfalls that you may not even know about. Which is why a mentor is a good person to ride the road with - they can keep you on the straight and narrow, and can inspire and motivate you in times of turmoil. They will also know the road very well so can advise you on what to do at certain sections of the road.

On your road to a new profession, a mentor like Mr. Smith is completely unsuitable because you need a person who knows the area you’re going into. 

This is the speciality of a mentor: they know the area you’re entering into

It’s crucial to note, while the mentor might be with you along your road to professional success, he or she will not be driving the car for you - you drive the car yourself. This is an incredibly common mistake. 

Many people forget that the mentor is there to support and to educate you, but ultimately the student must do the work themselves. Sadly, too many individuals report that their failures are down to their mentor, which of course can only be true if the person gave 100% dedication to the course. In most cases, mentoring partnerships are incredibly positive. 

Remember, a mentor is not your driver, but a driving instructor who sits in your car with you on your way to professional success. You must put the effort into your learning as well.

The Careerist mentoring system

Here at Careerist we realized the effectiveness of mentoring early on, and we began to use this tool in our courses. We appreciate that it is often very difficult for individuals, who sometimes have no knowledge of a subject, to start a brand new career and we wanted to be there for them from the start to the end. 

Here's how mentoring works with us.

As soon as a student has completed a course and practice, a mentor contacts him or her to discuss their future actions. 

The next steps generally include, starting to look for a job. A student needs to prepare a resume and has to create a LinkedIn profile, as well as passing an interview-exam, which can all be done with the help of a mentor. To prepare for an interview, a mentor can run through mock interview questions, and can point out glaring mistakes to the student. 

When a student starts looking for a job, and starts going to interviews, the mentor calls the student every two weeks to discuss progress. This is when they discuss interview results, and together the student and the mentor perform a retrospective analysis to identify mistakes and achievements during interviews. 

Since the search for a job itself is not a quick matter, many “burn out” and give up halfway, and sometimes even earlier, since no one likes to receive lots of rejections. The mentor is the person who will step in at this point, and will provide motivation to the student when they need it most. The mentor will encourage and direct the student towards better solutions so that they have more interview successes.

The Careerist mentor sticks with the student until the very end.  A mentor is like a ‘best buddy’, who’s always there for you until you get that long awaited “yes” after an interview.

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