Imagine that you and a colleague with similar qualifications and backgrounds started working at a company around the same time.  You watch that colleague ascend the corporate ladder at lightning speed while you remain stuck in the same position, struggling to gain recognition and promotion for your efforts.  You’ve tried various tactics, all to no avail.  In a moment of frustration, you ask yourself, ‘What does this person have that I don’t?”  It’s not skills or knowledge, and it’s certainly not a lack of trying on your part.  But there’s something that sets them apart from you and other employees.  How do I know this?  Because I was in the same predicament, and I asked myself this question.  When I saw a fellow employee obtain his dream job, I took the initiative to ask how he did it.  To my surprise, it wasn’t his stellar resume or career accolades.  He had a mentor guiding him along the way.  

Mentors are not just applicable in the corporate or professional environment.  When you consider the education to workforce pipeline, mentors are equally critical during one’s learning years.  As a new doctoral student, I had an inkling of the challenge that awaited me when I experienced the never-ending cycle of writing and editing assignments in my very first class.  I discovered a life line in connecting with dissertation students and recent graduates.  They shared their tales of woes as well as victories.  This small group gave me a sense of community, and if they could do it, so could I with the proper guidance.  From among them, my mentor emerged – a dissertation student with the same major – and it was a match made in heaven!

The path to success is never traveled alone.  It is marked by instrumental relationships, connections, and perhaps, most importantly, a mentor.  What if I told you that instead of admiring the great accomplishments of someone else, you could experience shining moments of own with the help of a mentor?  A mentor is someone who has already arrived where you are trying to go.  He or she has experienced and successfully navigated the challenges and obstacles that you may encounter along your journey.  What better treasure than if they could share their experiences and expertise?  

Think of a mentor as your coach and professional partner.  This is someone who wants to see you succeed, has your best interests at heart, and understands the road you are traveling.  While you are responsible for putting forth the effort, a mentor wants to help you reach your destination.  The mentor is here to help you with several things: accountability, insight, pathways, and motivation.  What many don’t realize is that the mentor-mentee relationship is mutually beneficial.  There is a well-known adage that says, “iron sharpens iron.”  The mentor delivers feedback that shapes the mentee into a stronger, purpose-driven professional.  Throughout this process, the mentor is challenged in thought, creativity, and capability in ways that might not occur outside of this relationship.  There is also the intrinsic satisfaction of helping others in a meaningful way.  One person cannot influence every other person in the world.  However, a single mentor has the capacity to plant seeds among individuals and communities and watch those fruits blossom and multiply.  This is the power of mentorship.  If more people would become mentors to others, the impact would be phenomenal and far-reaching.