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What is a Mentor?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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In many professions, it is not uncommon for a newcomer to the field to be placed under the care of an established and seasoned professional. This professional is often charged with the task of helping to train, advise, and share practical experience with the new person in the organization. This process is commonly known as mentoring, and the professional who is responsible for the care and nurture of the newcomer is referred to as a mentor. Here are some examples of how a mentor goes about providing support.

One of the most important roles of a mentor is serving as a teacher to the novice. Mentors share their body of experience, relating what they have learned in ways that will connect with the newcomer. The range of experience often includes such valuable information as industry basics, some solid facts about how the corporation works, applications of the goods and services produced by the company, and tips on how to perform individual job responsibilities. Along with this official type of mentorship, the mentor may also serve as an unofficial advisor on such matters as which employees in the company should be watched with a close eye, and who tends to be trustworthy.

Mentors do not take the new employee through a basic orientation and then leave them on their own. The work of the mentor will continue well after the employee is past the usual ninety-day probation period for employment. That is because the mentor also functions as a counselor for the new employee. When there is frustration with an incident in the workplace, or a matter comes up that requires a different approach, the employee may wish to sit down with the mentor and talk through the situation. As counselors to new employees, mentors help the novice to draw not only draw on past experience for answers, but also help the novice to discover a new way to apply older principles.

Finally, mentors function as advisors. While counseling involves helping the novice discover answers, advising places the mentor in a position to provide a feasible course of action that is relevant to the situation. For example, if the novice is completely stumped as to handle a collections issue with a client that is about to go bankrupt, the mentor can probably provide the new employee with a step by step process of what needs to be done. Offering advice when unusual situations occur is a common part of the work of the mentor.

Being a mentor is not for the faint of heart. The responsibility requires knowledge, solid communication skills, and a great deal of patience. At the same time, being a mentor can be extremely rewarding, as there is a great deal of satisfaction in watching your former charges grow in prestige and competence over the years.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By panda2006 — On Jan 28, 2011

Mentors can also be an integral part of many musical groups. In that case, an older member is assigned to a new member to help them get used to rehearsal schedules, learning music or performance techniques, introducing them to other older members, and answering any other questions the newcomers might have.

By icecream17 — On Jan 28, 2011

Latte31 -What a great idea. I have to say that I had a manager mentor once. She was my boss and treated me like I was her sister. She taught me everything she knew and always had my best interest at heart.

It was nice learning the ropes from someone like that because you become more confident and productive when you do.

Having a mentor is important because there has to be someone that you can go to when you have questions or need advice on something.

They say that people love to give advice and asking a mentor their opinion not only feeds their ego, but it helps you as well.

By latte31 — On Jan 28, 2011

Sneakers 41-I know that mentoring children is really a wonderful thing. But children can be mentors as well.

In my child’s school the children have a peer mentor. For example, the children in second grade are paired up with children in the fifth grade.

They do a social studies project together and now these kids know each other and might be friends.

The school does this in order to encourage children to mentor each other and cut down on bullying.

As a matter of fact, the honor roll students tutor the struggling students afterschool in a special program. This way the struggling student gets mentored from the more adept student and both of their self esteems soar.

Peer tutoring like this can be very effective.

By sneakers41 — On Jan 28, 2011

I think that volunteer mentors that mentor children are really special. Organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters really provide a good role model for children that may have an absentee parent that really does not spend the time with them that they need.

I heard that children are influenced most by parents of the same sex, so if a male child does not have a father figure it could be problematic because the child usually learns how to be a man from the father. Having a male mentor in this case helps to provide a proper role model that the boy can identify with.

Likewise if a little girl does not have her mother she needs a strong female mentor that she can identify with and learn how to become a woman. Many of these children are lonely and so grateful for a little quality time.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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