What is Mentoring? – Definitions, History and Guides

Here's the ultimate guide to mentoring definitions, buzzwords and the history of Mentor.

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Mentoring, Reverse Mentoring, Mentor, Mentee, or even Mentoree – all these words are often thrown around and can, understandably cause confusion. We’ve already covered one of the most asked questions – the difference between mentoring and coaching. However, in this article, we’ll set out the key definitions and keywords we often use, in reference to mentoring, with the hope of clarifying a few things for you.

Mentoring is widely used, and the chances are that you will have either been mentored or mentored someone else at some stage, or several stages in your life, without even realising it or calling it mentoring. The reason? The definition of mentoring is when someone shares their knowledge, skills, and experience with another person to help them to progress. So, if you’ve shared any knowledge, skills, or experience with another person or had another person share this with you, you’ve been involved in mentoring.

The Definition of Mentoring
There are many definitions of mentoring. However, the most succinct definition of mentoring is when someone shares their knowledge, skills, and experience to help another person to progress. This progression could be professional or personal, although given the work/life balance a lot of us now have, the crossover between the two is often considered.

Where Does the Word Mentor Come From?
The word Mentor has historical origins in Greek Mythology. Ulysses entrusted his son Telemachus to the care and direction of his old and trusted friend, Mentor, before setting out on his epic voyage. Telemachus was guided and advised by Mentor, and this is where we now use the word mentor, and verb ‘mentoring’. In modern development terms, mentoring is usually a 1-to-1, two-way development relationship.

What is a Mentor?
The definition of a mentor is a person who shares their knowledge, skills, and/or their experience, to help another person, or group of people, to progress. Traditionally a mentor would guide a mentee (see mentee definition below) in a one-to-one mentoring relationship. However, more recently, group mentoring has become popular amongst businesses and organisations, where one person shares knowledge and guidance with a larger group of people.

What is a Mentee?
The definition of a mentee is a person who receives knowledge, skills, experience, and guidance from a mentor, to help them, the mentee, to progress. This progress is often in professional and career development, such as moving into a new role or job, but can be offered throughout a person’s life. In some cases, you may here the word mentee referred to as ‘mentoree’.

What is Reverse Mentoring?
Reverse mentoring is a relatively new concept where someone typically considered less experienced, less senior, or younger in an organisation will mentor someone more senior, to educate them about certain perspectives, insights, or knowledge. Commonly, this includes insights and knowledge on diversity and inclusion, technology, and upcoming market trends. For more about reverse mentoring, take a look at our reverse mentoring guidelines here.

What are the Benefits of Mentoring?
There are a significant number of benefits to mentoring for everyone involved. In traditional mentoring, with two parties, both the mentor and mentee stand to gain a lot from the mentoring relationship, which is why organisations are increasingly using mentoring programs and mentoring software to promote mentoring to their employees.

Benefits of mentoring can include:

  • Effective learning and first-hand knowledge-sharing through mentoring
  • Gaining practical insights, guidance, and advice from those in a position of experience
  • Increased confidence (typically for the mentee) from having a mentor in a position of seniority in an organisation
  • Improved interpersonal and communication skills for both the mentor and mentee
  • Empowerment from the mentee to progress effectively and the mentor to take on the new and additional responsibilities of supporting the mentee
  • Wider understanding of different perspectives, be that from different countries, organisations or departments in the same organisation
  • A trusted partner to discuss more confidential challenges and goals in one’s career
Benefits of mentoring can be felt on both sides and the phrase ‘mutual mentoring’ can effectively convey this, to make it clear to both parties that mentoring can help them.

How Can I Mentor Others?
There are lots of ways an individual can get involved with mentoring. You can join PushFar’s free mentoring platform to become a mentor and start sharing your experience today. You can also explore mentoring programs from schools, colleges and universities and most larger organisations will also offer mentoring programs to their employees.

How Can I Find a Mentor?
Finding a mentor can sometimes seem tricky but there are lots of routes to finding a mentor that you can use. PushFar’s mentoring network has more than 60,000 individuals involved in mentoring relationships, and you can click here to join free today. You can also find a mentor through networking, online tools such as LinkedIn and by speaking to colleagues.
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