Mentoring: A Two-Way Street

by Elyse Kane

I hosted the Meet Your Mentor podcast for a significant amount of time before I began to notice patterns in the mentors’ responses to my questions. Though I noticed a few specific patterns, the one that stood out to me the most was the idea that mentorship is a two-way street.  This idea began to formulate in my subconscious pretty early into my internship at The Mentor Project, but I didn’t really have the words to express what I meant until someone brought it up while recording an episode of the podcast.  Because a handful of mentors have mentioned this while on the podcast, especially given that the majority of them have been both the mentor and the mentee during their lifetimes, it’s all the more powerful of a statement.

Now, you may be wondering, what does it mean to say that mentoring is a two-way street, or mentoring is mutually beneficial?  To me, it does not mean that the mentor and mentee are getting the exact same amount of help and life experience out of the mentoring process, as the phrase “two-way street” might imply.  To me, this means that the mentee is largely growing and learning about the mentor’s respective field, all the while the mentor is able to learn how to be a better mentor and improve their communication skills.  And both parties are able to benefit from each new experience by broadening their horizons and getting to see things from a different perspective.

There is also a common misconception that mentors have to be older than their mentees, and this is another topic I’ve talked about with quite a few mentors.  I feel this misconception stems from the idea that the older you are the wiser you are, and while this may be true in some cases, knowledge can span throughout generations, and people come from all different kinds of backgrounds, so you never know what information someone might have to share with others.  There is nothing that says a mentor has to be older than their mentee; a mentor is simply someone who is able to share knowledge and help advise and guide others in their journey.


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