Mentorship is both a science and an art, and lies at the intersection between the personal and the professional in a lot of ways. There are lots of articles and advice about how to be a good mentor, so this post is not meant to replicate all of the great advice out there. Instead, I wanted to reflect a bit on what mentorship means to me, and how much it actually shows up in our day-to-day lives.
While I spend a good chunk of my flexible time doing what I would call ‘mentorship’ during the week– both giving and receiving– it is not something I talk a lot about publicly. Because while I strongly believe in the importance of mentorship, when it comes to sharing details about the specific mechanics of support or the direct experience of these relationships (including the myriad of ways that I experience ‘mentorship’ informally with different people in my life), frankly it feels weird to talk about the experience outside of the small co-created bubble we have built together.
Maybe I am not good with boundaries, but when we both show up equally to embark on this journey, formal ‘mentorship’ often feels less like a formula to follow and more like a context-driven-friendship-on-steroids. I know this isn’t the traditional way of thinking about it– particularly in the professional world– but the reality is that, to be truly meaningful, even the most staid professional coaching relationship demands showing up for people in a pretty substantial, human way.
Whether we are meant to be talking about board governance and female leadership, exploring career transitions, dealing with a bout of anxiety, brainstorming a new personal project or navigating a complex workplace: the conversation inevitably veers into exploring personal feelings of doubt, confidence, uncertainty, fear and relationships, all of which shape the way a person experiences themselves and others in the world.
In my experience, it is in this layered exploration of the interaction between the public self and intimate self where real growth and transformation can happen.
In a lot of ways more generally, this is what supportive relationships looks like. Whether it is labeled as mentorship, friendship or something else entirely: being intentional and making time for each other, having a shared understanding of each others goals, all while also creating space therein to casually (or intentionally) explore how both people are feeling and experiencing their lives– this to me is what supportive and transformative mentorship/friendship/relationship is in a nutshell. The semantics don’t matter to me– but the experience of communion and connection does.
The ‘technique’ or science of mentorship explains how intentional support and connection can help people grow personally and professionally. However the art of mentorship is also very human, with all of its messiness and vulnerability. I find this beautiful, alchemical exchange of selves in so many places in my life, and I feel grateful to the many people (family, friends, colleagues, mentors, etc…) who have stepped into this special kind of supportive bubble with me, who have intentionally joined in on co-created a loving and nurturing space, have generously shared their life experiences, and have graciously contributed so much support and kindness to my own journey through life.
And perhaps you want to get involved in mentoring a young women? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk!
A version of this post originally appeared in The Earnest Platypus, Amy’s weekly newsletter