What Is A Mentor? Definition, Purpose & More

Nicola Cronin

The figure of a mentor has been around forever, since the days of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Nowadays, people often talk about the importance of mentoring in a personal development and career context, with 'get a mentor' being a key piece of advice from successful business people the world over.

So what is a mentor?

A mentor is a person who can support, advise and guide you. They typically take the time to get to know you and the challenges you're facing, and then use their understanding and personal experience to help you improve.

This relationship is additional to a manager or boss, and benefits from a more personal and confidential structure. Mentors have the potential to become life long friends, or the relationship might only last until you've achieved a goal, there's no one size fits all. Many celebrities have publicly discussed the impact their mentors had on their success, including Christian Dior, Richard Branson, and Oprah Winfrey.

Mentoring definition:

What is the purpose of a mentor?

The purpose of a mentor is to help you excel in your career and become the best version of yourself. This may involve helping you achieve your goals, introducing you to new ways of thinking, challenging your limiting assumptions, teaching you life lessons, and much more.

Why do people become mentors?

People choose to mentor as it is a highly rewarding experience. Seeing somebody grow and succeed as a result of your advice is very valuable. There are many benefits of mentoring for the mentor as well as the mentee, such as improving communication and leadership skills.

Harvard Business Review conducted a study researching the positive effects of mentoring, and found that people who served as mentors also experienced lower levels of anxiety, and described their job as more meaningful, than those who did not mentor.

What makes a good mentor?

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor

This quote highlights the essence of a good mentor: somebody that does not tell you what to do, but helps you figure it out for yourself.

Personality traits of a good mentor include: 

  • Being a good listener

  • Empathetic

  • Encouraging

  • Self-aware

  • Personable

  • Honest

📖 Read our guide on How To Be A Good Mentor 📖

Misconceptions around mentoring

There are a few common misconceptions about mentoring that affect the way people think about what a mentor is. We want to set the record straight in this mentoring myth busting:

  • "Mentors have to be old" – Mentoring has no age requirements, and older people can benefit from being mentored by younger people. What's important is relevant experience.

  • "Mentoring only benefits mentees" – Mentoring has heaps of benefits for both the mentor, including communication and leadership skills, increased fulfilment, likelihood of promotion and more. Read all the benefits here.

  • "Mentoring is elitist" – It's not about senior managers taking prodigies 'under their wing'. Modern mentoring is fair and inclusive (when established right).

  • "You're either a mentor or a mentee" – In fact, 89% of people with a mentor go on to be a mentor themselves.

  • "My mentor has to be similar to me" – Familiarity is nice, but the best learning happens when you're exposed to different ways of thinking.

So how do I find a mentor?

If you have somebody that you admire in mind to be your mentor, we recommend you reach out to them for a coffee, or a video call. Say you’d love to pick their brains about a certain topic, and have some questions ready – don't ask them to be your mentor straight away! If you have good chemistry and you can see their experience being valuable to you in your career journey, just ask them if they'd be happy to meet more often and mentor you.

Read our full guide here: 🤝 How To Find A Great Mentor 🤝

Another good option for finding a mentor is speaking to your employer. More and more companies are running formal mentoring programs, so speak to HR or L&D!

Guider is revolutionising the way organisations develop their people through AI powered mentoring. Get in touch to find out how we can establish impactful mentoring in your organisation 👋