• Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Sandra Santos
  • 932nd Airlift Wing
Recently, someone asked me if
I would consider being their
mentor. This prompted me to
examine many things about the request; from
whether I would accept the responsibility of
having a mentee, to the meaning of the word

Today, mentoring might be described
as the activities conducted by a person (the
mentor) for another person (the mentee) in
order to help that other person to do a job
more effectively and/or to progress in their

The original Mentor is a character in
Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey."
Odysseus, King of Ithaca, entrusted the care
of his son, Telemachus, to Mentor when
Odysseus set out to fight the Trojan War, as
well as on those famous wanderings we now
call an "odyssey." Mentor was Odysseus'
wise and trusted counselor, as well as tutor
to Telemachus. Mentor was also entrusted
with the care of Odysseus' kingdom. 

At any rate, Mentor's name, with a
lower case "m," has passed into our language
as a shorthand term for wise and
trusted counselor and teacher. This is usually
a more experienced person. Generally,
a mentor is someone who has "been there,
done that" and can provide expertise to less
experienced individuals to help them advance
their careers, enhance their education and
build their networks. 

What does it take to be a mentor? It
takes the same level of interest, commitment
and confidence in someone else's career as
it takes to grow your own. It also requires
that you be sincerely interested in someone
else's development despite your own busy
schedule. You may not win any awards, but
you will have the satisfaction of having done
an important job. 

So, you think that you are ready to take
on the role of a mentor? To help you answer
this question, you need to identify why you
want to be one. Analyze what you have to
offer a mentee. Be brutally honest with yourself
as you consider what influence, skill,
knowledge, or other contribution you can
make. Also, acknowledge your weak spots.
The following are some Do's and Don'ts
to successful mentoring: 


·Be clear about your motives for helping your
mentee. If you're not sure yourself, the mentor
will get mixed messages from you. 

·Look after your mentee's needs, but consider
your own as well. Be certain about what you
want from the relationship and what you're
willing to give. 

·Be prepared for the relationship to end. The
successful mentee-mentor cycle requires that
the mentee move on and the relationship either
ends or takes a different form. 


·Don't give up right away if your mentee resists
your help at first. They may not recognize
the value of what you have to offer. Persistence
to a point may help. 

·Don't try to force your mentee to follow in
your footsteps. If the footsteps fit, they will follow
them voluntarily. Value the mentee's unique
path and where they are along that path. 

·Don't have a pre-conceived plan for the final
outcome of your relationship. 

Now that we've looked at what a mentor
is and does, perhaps you have decided that a
business or personal mentor could be a benefit
to you. The following points may start you toward
finding the right mentor.

Here are some tips on what to
look for in a mentor: 

·The most important thing to consider is
finding someone you can respect. If you
know of someone who has accomplished
things that you admire and hope to
achieve yourself, ask that person for
guidance. The person should also be
someone with whom you could trust to
confidentially discuss sensitive career

·If your goal is to advance, seek someone
about two ranks or grades above
yourself. If you seek a mentor who is
much more senior, the path to advancement
may have changed since that person
was at your level. Therefore, his or
her guidance may not be as helpful as
from someone who has been at your level
more recently. 

·Look for someone who is patient and
has the time to go over your goals and
work with you on a career development

·Look for a person who will support your
needs and aspirations, who will encourage
you to accept challenges and overcome
difficulties and who will motivate 
and inspire you to reach your full potential. 

·Look for someone who is genuinely interested
in people, has the desire to help
others, knows how to effectively communicate
and actively listen, is able to
resolve conflicts, and give appropriate

·Look for a person who is self-confident
and appreciates a developing individual
without seeing them as a threat. 

·Seek someone who takes pride in their
organization, who relishes challenges and
understands the mission, vision and values
of the organization. 

Every one of us is ultimately responsible
for our own career. However,
it can help tremendously to have someone
to talk with and who can listen and
share what they've learned about the organization
and the things that helped them succeed. By becoming a mentor,
you get the chance to pass on your successes,
which can also create great personal

(Originally appeared in the Gateway wing paper, June 2009)