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The following post was written by guest blogger Jen Przydzial Sears, Zeta Delta–Towson University.

Webster defines mentor as “an experienced and trusted advisor.” Many may think that the important word in that definition is experienced or advisor; however, I would argue that it is trust. Trust is a two-way relationship that is needed to make the mentor-mentee relationship successful.

I have had the opportunity to play both mentor and mentee roles in my professional and personal life. Many of these relationships developed over time—first beginning as a friendship or colleague relationship and then flourishing into something more because either myself or the other person sought more. Sometimes, I didn’t even know that I needed a mentor and a relationship happened organically. Recently, it was a more prescribed relationship when I was assigned to mentor a coworker.

Each relationship has been different—from how it began and what role I played to what I got out of the experience. What has been the same is that, no matter what role I played—mentor or mentee—I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience. All of it was possible because of trust—trust in one another, trust in the advice that was being given and trust that what was shared would stay between the two of us.

You may be at a point in your professional or personal life where you need a mentor. Here a few steps to help you acquire one:

  1. Ask yourself what areas you want to improve/grow/learn? Having a clear understanding of your needs will be helpful.
  2. Observe individuals in your network/social circle who have the skills you want to develop or who do what you want to do. When you think of this person, you think: “I want to be like them.”
  3. Develop a relationship with the individual. Allow the relationship to simmer before you jump in and ask the question, “Will you be my mentor?”
  4. At times, your mentor might challenge you or the relationship might hit some bumps in the road. Don’t let this discourage you or walk away from the relationship. Keep coming back and doing the work.
  5. Ask your mentor for feedback. This is where trust really comes into play. You need to trust that your mentor is going to provide you with feedback to help you grow.

Being a mentor or mentee can be scary, but—if both individuals trust themselves, trust each and trust the process—it can be mutually beneficial.

If you are interested in learning more about this trusted relationship, I suggest reading “The Trusted Advisor” by David H. Maister. It offers practical advice and I often find myself referring to it when I am in a mentor-mentee relationship.

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