Deconstructing the benefits of mentoring: Is it worth it?

More and more companies incorporate mentoring programs to educate their employees, and this leads us to the question: What is a mentoring program for? What are the keys to success in this activity? What benefits do the mentees get with this process? Why is a mentor willing to transmit his or her knowledge and time free of charge to another person?

All these questions have answers, but it is important to begin by dealing with the question about the essence of mentoring. The fact is that this is a practice whereby one person educates another through the exchange of his or her own resources, knowledge, values, skills, points of view, attitudes, and competences, within an organization. To this extent, it is not possible to consider mentoring the mere exercises of evaluation or direction that are carried out in a company. Mentoring, rather than qualifying someone’s skills, involves teaching, re-phrasing concepts, and helping mentees to find paths that lead them to his or her goals. Mentoring is not, in a strict sense, a sponsorship (although there is a type of mentoring that points to it.)

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Image courtesy of felissy at Flickr.com

Read also: Mentoring techniques: Which suits you best?, by Suzzanne Uhland

Mentoring allows a mentee to develop skills and new knowledge, and help him or her to achieve concrete goals. To the mentor, this activity offers the opportunity to develop different perspectives, ask new questions, learn about other concerns and expand the personal and professional vision. After all, someone who teaches something learns double and faces the great challenge of defining and confirming what he or she knows and does not know.

The mentor’s job is a tremendous challenge. It aims to contribute to the learning process of the mentee, and this means, among many things, that, in addition to the conversations proper to any encounter, mentors can facilitate new contacts of whom mentees can learn, and thus can contribute to the acquisition of knowledge. A mentor teaches what no one teaches you in college. These tricks of everyday life, those long years translated into experience, can be transferred in some well-taught lessons and assimilated. This not only contributes to the proper functioning of a company, which may have worked in a certain way for a long time, and it may be desirable that this continues to be so, but is a very useful learning for any newbie who wants to perform as a professional and as a person.

As the mentoring relationship progresses, the mentor also serves as an advisor. To do this, it must respond to the mentee’s need to contrast his or her own ideas. The mentor also acts as a counselor, and for this purpose brings his or her views and opinions based on experience, as well as the transmission of new perspectives, which help the mentee to make better executive decisions.

The global nature of companies is a feature that is increasingly present throughout the market for goods and services. This, in turn, requires professionals to be more open and connoisseurs of new environments. For this reason, it is important to ask about the strategic reasons that companies should develop in terms of a mentoring project.

The most common reason is usually internal support or a valuable talent for the organization. This tool is also often used to facilitate succession plans, to boost the career of employees, to improve the retention of key personnel within the company, or to help the integration of workers in the company or new positions.

It is a known fact that managerial productivity increases to almost ninety percent when a mentoring project is implemented. This, compared to almost twenty-five percent productivity when we talk about traditional business training. It is also known that minds can improve up to eleven core competencies much more effectively than traditional methods. In fact, thirty-five percent of the most talented workers who have not received mentoring usually seek a new job in no more than two years. This means that the rotation of a company, which in some cases is irrelevant, in others is positive, and in others is counterproductive, depends to a large extent on the presence of mentoring processes within an organization.

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Image courtesy of Robert Basil at Flickr.com

In consequence, it is necessary to increase high-level learning, and, at the same time, to re-create training times and costs. Programs and courses for managers are not common. The exchange of mentors and mentees provokes very profitable relationships for all the participants and does not imply great investments for the companies.

It is normal for many people to be skeptical on mentoring. After all, this is a novel and a reactionary way of traditional training in the business world. Although it is not a new issue (if we analyze the history of Ancient Greece, we could find mentoring processes, somehow,) in the conservative business world is not even thirty years old.

Actually, its benefits are very interesting and the reasons for not using it (which could imply lack of time or the small size of some companies) are very few in terms of the positive aspects of this practice.

Recommended: Four Key Benefits of Workplace Mentoring Initiatives

 

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Mentoring techniques: Which suits you best?

Coaching and mentoring are widely used strategies by organizations to promote the development of the potential of their employees which have been implemented in our country for more than four decades. This type of human resources techniques is very useful to encourage the adaptation to the change of the employees both operationally and technologically.

Nowadays, some of the capabilities that most companies look for in their employees include implication, commitment, and adaptation to change. For this reason, it is important to make a series of improvements within organizations and go beyond the role of managers. These must acquire a different role, which is not only to direct, control, and order, but also to guide and teach their employees. They must know how to give the necessary tools so that their work team can carry out all the work for themselves, revitalizing the value of the work done and the objectives achieved.

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For this reason, the training departments of companies today should help the development of this type of skills by encouraging the constant learning of their employees. Companies seek to develop both interpersonal and professional competencies at the same time, but they usually tend to develop only interpersonal skills.

Mentoring techniques are one of the most effective tools for disseminating knowledge which are often produced internally, with an applied approach that ensures the transfer of knowledge and, at a lower cost than an extensive training plan.

Read also: How To Start A Great Mentoring Program At Work, by Suzzanne Uhland

One of the best-known techniques is sponsorship mentoring. In this category, the power and influence of the mentor are important to the relationship. In addition, supervising or being responsible for the development of the mentee is a task that the mentor performs according to his or her ways. The important thing to understand here is that this modality of mentoring is based on the fact that the mentor takes charge and is permanently aware of the development of the mentee.

Rather than the mere observation of a vertical relationship between boss and employee, what is important here is the transmission of knowledge and the verification that this knowledge is properly assimilated. In addition to the technical knowledge that can be conveyed, one of the most remarkable aspects of sponsorship mentoring is the transmission of the wisdom derived from years of experience: Precisely, what textbooks do not teach.

It should be noted that the transmission of knowledge here is unilateral. This means that only the mentor teaches the mentee, and this often happens with bosses who, for example, are about to retire and need to leave someone in the position they are going to leave behind. For this reason, the power and authority of the mentor are basic aspects of this teaching relationship. In fact, the mentor often acts on behalf of the mentee to make decisions, and for this reason, this technique is usually not free from conflicts in practice. Although it may be very useful, and, in fact, it has been for many years, each time it loses more strength as a trend.

On the other hand, development mentoring is a technique in which the main idea consists mainly of co-learning. This means that someone should help others to make better decisions and increase their wisdom, as a result of a deep self-awareness, but it is not a one-sided relationship, unlike sponsorship mentoring. This technique, much more trendy than the other, is focused on finding someone’s best skills and helping them to reach the maximum potential they can so that they (mentors and mentees) can be what they want to become. It is not a usual experience within traditional organizations where employees simply adapt to the company’s schemes, and can rarely deploy creativity and implement the knowledge learned in college.

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In broad terms, development mentoring points to a relationship without hierarchy. In this case, what is really relevant is the experience that can be shared by the mentor and the mentee. The key skill of the mentor in this learning relationship lies in being able to adapt to the nature of the aid provided to the mentee’s needs over time.

Both learn here by using this technique. This is quite positive since, in this way, the mentor also oxygenates his or her knowledge with what mentees bring from the universities. Above all, when it comes to technology, mentors always have things to learn. Therefore, in mentoring development, the power and authority of the mentor are not highly important. The mentor, rather than instructing the mentee, teaches him or her to think, to decide what he or she wants and to plan a way to reach it. This relationship, based on opportunities for mutual learning and friendship, tends to be more positive in practice, especially in a millennial society.

Adopting one technique or another depends mostly on the way the company has operated in the past and on the decisions of employees that may offer new ideas and can be listened.

Which suits you best?

Recommended: Modern Mentoring Is The Key To Retaining Millennials 

* Featured Image courtesy of rawpixel.com at Pexels.com

 

Mentoring: The best Human Resources Management tool

Today, more than management of human resources, the issue under discussion is the management of people. People are actually the most important asset in companies because they are carriers of knowledge; transferable, interchangeable, and regenerative knowledge. Moreover, knowledge is the second most valuable resource on the scale of priorities, and, for this reason, CEOs around the world are looking for ways to care for and generate it more quickly. The way it is transferred and how it is shared is key to respond to the increasingly complex problems which happen so quickly.

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Well, the bridge that one of those two great asses, people and knowledge is learning. Learning is the most important tool for companies in this regard, and has its origin in interpersonal connection: Something that someone knows is connected with a new situation that another person must solve. In this way, what someone knows is connected with what others know, and so new knowledge is produced. In this sense, companies need to look for systems or tools that enhance that connection, sociability, contacts between people that lead to the creation of new ideas, new opportunities, and new businesses. That is where mentoring becomes relevant.

Mentoring is one of those new forms of learning (a knowledge management tool) that has become a necessity for companies. What is it? We could define it as a learning and development practice of people in organizations, consisting of learning from the experience of others (mentors,) who also help their mentees to develop their potential and relate within and outside the organizational environment with other people who may be relevant to their career. Mentors are people with a consolidated and well-positioned trajectory within and outside the company who share and transmit their business and organizational culture experience to a mentee, so that the development of his or her potential takes place, and, therefore the learning within the company becomes much faster and effective.

Read also: Some Of The Things That Set A Good And A Great Mentor Apart, by Suzzanne Uhland

Mentors act as role models, as learning guides, as transmitters of knowledge. They challenge their minds to take on new goals to increase their level of skills. They help them to reflect, and question what has always been done, how it has been done, or why it has been done in a certain way, always looking for new ways of doing things to arrive at new solutions, and, consequently, new opportunities. Mentors are connectors: They relate to their minds outside and within the organization, providing them with valuable relationships and showing them how to build a network of contacts.

Mentoring is a social process, arising from the interaction between people, from questions to active listening. Its main purpose is to generate ideas through powerful questions, questions that produce reflection, questions that draw people from their comfort zone and make them move forward looking for new ways, seeing things from another perspective. This is, in a nutshell, that someone who works day by day in a company can seek advice from others who have been in similar situations to meet their professional challenges. This type of learning is enhanced through meetings between mentors and mentees in which career objectives are established within the company, thanks to dialogue and discussion on problems and situations that occur in daily work, and plans of action are drawn to achieve objectives.

In these sessions between mentor and mentee, you learn through the exchange of ideas, knowledge, points of view, and experiences through advice. Instead of inviting experts from outside the company to train your employees, when it comes to mentoring, knowledge is provided based on the difficulties they have faced and have had to resolve within the organization. People have greater confidence in the advice of someone in the same situation, and therefore, are more receptive to them. In addition, peer conversations can provide both emotional and practical support, and favor interactive thinking, which consists in reasoning with others, developing interpersonal reasoning. It is about reflecting in common, putting oneself in the other’s place and seeing things from different perspectives and categories of thought.

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Image courtesy of Brian Ujiie at Flickr.com

Because mentoring is essentially a social process, it has a very important cooperative base. We all know it: Cooperation generates a positive energy within the organization, which develops personal capacities beyond normal limits, and increases the performance of the entire organization. Cooperation is encouraged through dialogue, allowing doubts, questioning, and confrontation between the different members of the organization.

Designing mentoring strategies within the company enhances the capacity for internal learning and prepares companies to respond in a more agile and innovative way to the new challenges and changes of the market. If mentoring is built on a proper fostering of diversity, the organization will enable the creation of a much more extensive, diverse, and effective learning base, which will lead to greater competitiveness. A company cannot advance solely on the basis of external and technical training: It must also learn to internalize knowledge, skills, and attitudes through shared learning processes such as mentoring.

Recommended: Mentoring and Human Resources: A Perfect Match

* Featured Image courtesy of Jeso Carneiro at Flickr.com

The importance of law firm mentoring programs

Historically, the private practice of attorneys was linked to the idea of lawyers having an apprentice of protégé. This relationship within the legal field has remained, and law firms keep on having apprentices, which now are called mentees.

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Ever since the legal profession has existed, law firms have played a vital role. It was thanks to senior members that younger members could become part of a law firm. The process was simple, and it was based on a mentoring program in which the senior lawyer would pass all its knowledge to its apprentice in order for it to become a member of the firm in time. Without going through the mentorship program, it was not possible for new lawyers to become members of a firm. Also, apprentices would star their journey in the law filed by taking care of simpler tasks at the beginning and moving to more complex ones eventually.

This structure and mentoring process remained the same until the 1970’s and 1980’s when the law firms in New York decided to raise the firm members’ salaries in order to motivate them to work harder. This way, mentoring programs decreased, and members at law firms would rather do everything by themselves instead of sharing their share of the profit with new mentees (and potential partners of the law firms).

Thanks to the market crash that took place in the United States in 1987, many people demanded legal services in order to solve their situation. This gave a renovated impulse to law firms to return to their old mentoring programs, helping new lawyers to prepare for the upcoming cases.

Also, during the mid-1990’s, large law firms and its associates started to demand that the firms should increase their mentoring programs since their senior member was running low and there was no one that could actually do their job due to the lack of preparation and expertise. Improving the associates’ experience became vital, and law mentoring programs once again became important.

This way, each outstanding law firm in the U.S. created its own mentoring program to provide associates with the knowledge they needed to teach mentees. These programs aimed to give associated the power they needed to have control over the information that was meant to be passed to new mentees given the high demand for lawyers the firms were facing.

The Approach of Law Firms to Mentoring Programs

In the early stages of mentoring programs, no matter how good the intentions were, the programs wouldn’t take place unless both the mentor and the mentee shared a common background and had enough available time in their agendas to continue with the relationship.

Nowadays, we have seen that this has changed and mentoring programs make much more sense than they used to do. Their main goal is to provide the inexperienced attorney with the opportunity to develop its knowledge and skill, by gaining the necessary experience in the process. This means that mentees have the chance to get involved with the actual legal process that allows they to witness how the law operated and how the firms that are mentoring them makes the decision over important legal matters.

As mentees are meant to become partners of the firm at one point, the are prepared in a way they can develop fully as the attorney within the firm’s culture and working environment. They are trained, so they play according to the rules set by the firm. In this sense, it is vital for firms to create and sustain an outstanding working environment, and to offer the best working conditions to mentees, so the best ones can feel attracted to potentially become partners with the firm.

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To meet both the market’s needs, each firm is motivated to develop mentoring programs that are almost tailor-made for their mentees. They understand that it takes an effort to meet certain goals and that high salaries are not always the best way to attract their potential partners.

Law Firms to Mentoring Programs Today

Firms now understand that if they want to be successful, they need to provide their mentees with the proper set of skills to face what the market may demand. The have found a way to balance salaries vs. pressure and even the number of hours mentees and partners need to work. Mentees in this sense are no longer called that way since they have become associated members of firms who are able to demand higher billing rates.

Mentoring programs today focus on training lawyers in the best possible way by assigning them operational tasks from which they need to learn a lot from. Also, they demand associates to go out and “play in and out of the field,” since in both places important things happen. Finally, programs know that every person is different, for that reason, they offer one-to-one support and guidance. This way, law firms strive to obtain better results and form the ideal partner they require for the future.

Related: What Can Mentoring Do For Me And My Career? by Suzzanne Uhland

How To Enhance The Mentoring Relationship As A Mentee

Here is Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we have talked about all the great benefits mentoring programs offer the organization and each of the individuals involved in this type of relationships that stimulate mutual growth. People are often skeptical about mentorships because they feel that it is perhaps too good to be true. The idea of having a person who is successful and much more experienced than yourself, helping you bounce ideas out of each other and providing you with a unique insight into your own professional field for free, is sometimes difficult to accept. Mentorships seem like a great deal but in a world as competitive as ours, it is difficult to simply accept something that apparently puts you in the position of being benefited without having to give anything up but your time in return.

Shaharris at DementiaHack
Image courtesy of Matthew Burpee at Flickr.com

The reason why people may think this about mentoring programs has more to do with our own ignorance of the role of a mentee than with any possible insidious nature hidden within a mentor’s motives. It is important to understand that successful mentoring relationships are a two-way street and that mentors have just as much to gain from them as mentees do. If you have been guilty of this mentality, then I invite you to learn a little more about the actual role of the mentee. And how being in the seemingly receiving end of the relationship, also comes with its own set of responsibilities and the need to give back.

Successful mentees that are able to make the most out of their relationship with senior individuals are those who seize the opportunities that arise when two minds work together on a single goal and are able to meet regularly to engage in that which they are passionate about.

One of the best ways to make your relationship become more reciprocal is to give a chance to your mentor to listen to what you have to say. Sometimes you have a lot to offer but neither of you are aware of the knowledge and experience you possess and that could be of great value. Mentors are people who are also looking to learn and will be happy to participate in activities that can turn into a learning experience. It is important that your fit with a mentor is based on a mutual understanding and you are both matched based on your personality and common values, since those type of pairings usually work best and spark the necessary curiosity that will allow both parties to become interested in each other’s set of skills and what they can teach one another. Simply being a good company and a genuinely interested individual can go a long way as a mentee.

Another aspect to consider is to be understanding and accepting of your role in the relationship and the fact that in most situations, it will be better for you as the mentee, to be flexible as to the dynamics of the mentorship. Your mentor may be a person who prefers to take on a coaching approach or perhaps they are more into answering questions and allow you to lead the course of the program. It is important for you to be aware of this and be respectful as to which type of relationship seems to be favored by your mentor.

Do not be afraid to talk about the things you know. Everyone is an expert at something and you have not achieved what you have thus far without being particularly good at something. Do not feel that your skills are irrelevant as you will be surprised how the things you know may change someone else’s life and in this case, help your mentor learn something or receive advice from a seemingly unlikely source. Something as common as the age or background difference can be a great place to start, as you can find many ways to teach your mentor something that you take for granted.

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Image courtesy of thetaxhaven at Flickr.com

Feedback is a great way to show you mentor that you respect the work you do together and that you take seriously the time they invest in your development. When you give your mentor feedback, you are helping him or her expand their own leadership skills and grow as professionals. Mentoring sessions are an excellent opportunity to evaluate one’s outlook on leadership and to conduct experiments on a smaller scale in which a mentor can evaluate the way they guide an individual and assert their own experience in order to help someone else direct their efforts towards their own professional and personal development. Just like giving feedback, it is important to actually listen to advice and trust the person you are working with. There is nothing more frustrating than a mentee that doesn’t listen to advice, as it makes the relationship ineffective and the time spent together feel as it were wasted.

* Featured Image courtesy of Matthew Burpee at Flickr.com

The Most Common Mentoring Mistakes You Should Avoid

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Mentoring is a practice that benefits companies, individuals belonging to the organization and more closely mentors and mentees who are personally involved with this type of partnerships. When members of a company are partnered with in each other in order to give or receive the guidance that comes along with a mentorship, you are not only helping them to grow professionally and to advance their own career and develop leadership skills, but you are also doing a great service when it comes to the organization’s growth and its impact on the industry. People engaged in successful mentoring programs are not only able to advance on their own career path but also able to grow as an individuals and be part of a workplace that cares about building a better work culture, promote better communication amongst staff and create a positive impact in retention efforts. As great as it sounds, we must be aware of the fact that while successful mentoring programs are great for many more reasons than the ones we’ve just listed, they do not always function the way they are meant to and they often fail.

A mentoring program can be unsuccessful for many reasons, such as a lack of support by the company on the mentor/mentee relationship or even insufficient engagement to the cause by the participants themselves. Today here at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we want to take a look at some of the reasons why mentorship programs do not work and which are the most common mistakes participants makes that often lead to failed mentoring relationship programs. While there is not one universal trick to make a program succeed, there are a few things that you should keep in mind in order to give your mentoring initiative every possible chance to be prosperous.

Carelessly matching partners

This is probably one of the worst mistakes that can be made when starting to plan a mentorship program. Names shouldn’t be picked out of a hat like in a lottery and people shouldn’t be matched unless they are carefully selected to work together based on their necessities, skills, and personalities. Sometimes people think that just because you have an individual who is a leader in the company, he or she will be willing to automatically become a mentor or even that they’d be good at it. Not matching people properly can ruin a mentoring program before it even takes off.

Failing to provide guidance

So now you have your people together and then what? You cannot simply let them mingle and then hope for the best. Mentors should understand what is expected of them within the company’s goal and according to the plan that has been carefully laid out that outlines the purpose of the mentoring program. Remember that mentors shouldn’t be first-line supervisors, so they must understand what their place is as mentors and respect those boundaries. The best way to assure that is to clearly explain what they goals are and what is expected of them when it comes to mentoring their mentees.

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Not allocating the proper time

If you have a great program set up but do not allocate time for your people to meet and have proper time to conduct their mentoring activities, then you might as well just cancel the whole program. Mentoring takes time and just trying to squeeze it in between breaks and in off-hours is just not going to cut it. Mentoring programs deserve the time and the energy necessary to be fruitful and to truly spark change. Time needs to be set aside for your teams to meet.

Leaving it all up to the mentor

This can happen at a company level, but also at the individual level, we think that the mentor is the one who needs to guide the relationship and just do everything for it to succeed. Mentors are normally very busy individuals and in a way or another, they are the ones who are donating their time and energy to help others advance and the organization itself to be better positioned within the market. It is unfair to expect mentors to do all the heavy lifting and to be responsible for the relationship to work. The key to success is to accept that this is a partnership and therefore all parties involved need to pitch in. Forgetting to follow up.

Not planning the path

The path of mentorship must be filled with benchmarks and goals that are spaced in carefully planned intervals that allow partners to know where they are going and how well they are doing on their way there. Sometimes mentorships believe they can just make it up as they go and do not have a need to plan their steps before taking them; this is a huge mistake and it only leads to failure in the long run.

 

Mentoring Relationships: a fruitful investment

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Almost every lawyer and roughly most law students are familiar with the good practice of mentoring, in which a student or an attorney gets together with a more senior lawyer who provides advice and keeps them from being led astray in the competitive race towards success. Mentoring programs can be found everywhere; they are widespread because they actually work: they help students, young attorneys, and further careers while bringing together networks and professionals.

As attorneys become more experienced and start gaining the necessary expertise in order for them to be a vital and crucial part in law firms, corporate offices, and other organizations, their needs also become more specialized and, to some extent, sophisticated. However, the fundamental need for direction and assistance in sailing rather complex atmospheres and environments within law corporations still remains; nonetheless, students, enthusiasts, attorneys and more senior attorneys can meet these needs by developing the aforementioned networks and relationships.

Suzzanne Uhland as previously talked about the importance of resorting to mentors from time to time; mentors are definitely people who can get to play a crucial role in people’s success as a professional. They build the pathways to connect the gaps between theory and reality of how the professional workplace operates. A mentor can also be an excellent partner; mentors can help others develop the skills they need so that they can thrive in their careers. An effective and fruitful mentoring relationship can serve as the bridge to access needed resources and people —key people—. Likewise, mentees can avoid mistakes and reduce the likelihood of falling victim of inexperience. Besides, they can save some time in their attempt to ascend to senior positions within law organizations.

Nevertheless, even though the benefits of resorting to a mentor have already been proven, and even though people have increasingly been looking for this type of relationships, yet many lawyers assert, or have asserted, that they either do not have a mentor or that they rarely resort to a mentor should they have questions.

Many attorneys, students, and law enthusiasts are completely disregarding the opportunity to take advantage of good mentors and productive mentoring relationships mostly because their expectations do not match their reality. Besides, they also let these opportunities go unnoticed because they have a totally biased, exaggerated connotation about the intrinsic role of a mentor —when the expectations are not met, they totally distort the entire concept. Such premise is what often leads to a fatal event commonly referred to as career suicide: almost every successful attorney could assert that his or her success could be accounted for by the presence of a fruitful and productive mentoring relationship. This is in fact particularly true for females in top positions of their professions who often face different junctures of isolation due to their, comparatively low, numbers.

There are other cases where a sheer array of professionals firmly believe that mentoring relationships and resorting to mentors for advice are not important; however, it is important to point out that this phenomenon obeys to a flawed preconception about the term “relationship”. It would be nonsensical and naive to actually believe that a mentor or a professional who seeks to help others through counseling is some sort of a fairy godparent. Mentors do not possess some sort of magic wand in order to provide mentees with their dream job or a successful career; nor can they interact with the mentee’s environment and get rid of all the challenges and the difficulties they have to face in the race for success. With that being said, a good mentor is rather like a good lecturer: he or she is able to provide valuable and crucial information, resources and, more importantly, a much deeper sense of perspective. Their job is not to provide mentees with all they need, but to teach them how to get it.

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Some lawyers also value the time factor. Allegedly, they do not have enough time for them to develop such relationship. They constantly complain about the lack of time in their lives, which is why they ignore additional commitments —or, like they say: distractions—. And even though this might indeed be, to some extent, true, what lies behind the incapability to make room in their schedule is rather a mistake in judgment and poor time management. Career success, unlike the common connotation, is all about working smarter and not harder nor longer. If the opportunity presents itself, take it. If there is a chance to develop a positive and productive mentoring relationship that may come in handy when sailing across the different nuances of the professional life, take it: do not let it go unnoticed.

Taking advantage of what a mentor has to offer is perhaps one of the greatest investments people can make for themselves.