On my walk, every man I meet is superior to me in some way; and in that, I learn from him.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson epitomizes why mentoring relationships are necessary and why they are proven methods for learning.  Mentoring relationships are relationships in which people pour into the lives of others professionally and/or personally. In my view, everyone needs at least one mentor.

Would you like to move forward in your career?  Would you like to develop your leadership and/or communication skills? Would you like to meet more people in your career?  You can do all of these things by engaging in a mentoring relationship.  A mentor is someone who helps you grow your skills, make better decisions, and gain new perspectives on your life and career.

There are several models of mentoring relationships.  I will briefly cover five of them.  The first is the traditional mentoring model. In this relationship, an expert mentors a novice. The mentor has an area of expertise in which the novice needs assistance. For example, in colleges and universities, it is common to see a tenured professor assisting a new assistant professor.

Informal mentoring relationships happen by chance. Informal mentoring refers to supportive relationships you develop outside of a formal workplace or other place-based organized programs. These can be individuals you meet through your network that help guide you or offer you career advice.

Formal mentoring relationships occur within a structured program.  There are many mentoring programs developed by organizations, businesses, and educational institutions. They are intended to foster growth in both the mentor and mentee.

Reciprocal mentoring relationships involve peers mentoring each other, often informally. The pairs are equal partners in the process of learning and the relationship is reciprocal. This often occurs when people engage in accountability relationships and the like.

Group mentoring is a model of mentoring in which one mentor works with several mentees at once in a group.  The mentor will have an area of expertise to share and the mentees will have similar personal development goals or wish to learn specific new skills or knowledge.

Another model of a mentoring relationship is one of my favorites—a Mastermind.  Mastermind groups are when colleagues meet to solve problems together, share advice, and push each other to achieve specific goals.  Several famous Masterminds include the Inklings (CS Lewis), the Brain Trusts (Franklin Roosevelt), The Leather Apron Club (Benjamin Franklin), and the Vagabonds (Thomas Edison and Henry Ford).

The best mentoring relationship benefits both the mentor and mentee both professionally and personally.  Benefits to the mentor include building your leadership skills by helping you develop the ability to motivate and encourage others, improving your communication skills, learning new perspectives, advancing your career, and gaining personal satisfaction.  Mentees gain valuable advice, insight, knowledge, and skills as well as improve communication skills and gain new perspectives on critical issues in their professional and personal lives.

Yes, mentors are key if one wants to improve his or her professional and/or personal life.  I recommend finding at least one.