Mentors And Tormentors

Years ago, my friend Dr. Margit Kir-Stimon and I presented a paper on mentoring.  Early into the talk, a distinguished man stood (later I found out that he was the director of the hospital where we spoke) and said, “I’ve had mentors and I’ve had tormentors.”  It was a great line.  I’m sure everyone in the room has used it since that night.

 Mentors are not advisors.  Mentors are not the people paid to guide you through school, work or another learning experience – those are advisors.  Mentors choose you and you choose them – it is mutual.  They may have started out as advisors or bosses but that relationship morphs into something better, a relationship that the two of you select and nurture over time.  It is based on qualities that you admire and see in each other.  I’ve taught many graduate students on a part time basis since 1987.  I’ve advised lots of them, but I’ve probably only mentored a handful.

 At work and school, it is wise to keep the distinction in mind. Use your advisors and colleagues well but look for a mentor.  Look for someone you admire; someone who can teach you more about your craft. You mentor needs to be a person who doesn’t require a disciple but can guide you in shaping your identity, not to become similar to them, but to become someone unique in your own right.

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