Learning to navigate new challenges, make big decisions, and solve problems on our own are all a part of life. Having a guide while we navigate new and challenging situations can be incredibly helpful, and even the most tenacious and resilient among us need support. For many people, mentorship can be a way to build upon the strategies and skills developed in counseling.
Professional counselors work with clients in many settings and circumstances to provide mental health treatment and support as we manage the many challenges life may throw our way. Through that collaborative relationship, we can learn to:
- Identify problem-solving strategies
- Improve our communication and coping skills
- Set goals, both small and big
- Strengthen our sense of self-confidence
- Promote healthy habits
- Foster a positive relationship with ourselves and others
Simply put, counseling can set us up for many kinds of success. Counselors play a vital role, however, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Developing healthy and supportive relationships with those in our daily lives and community is needed for us to ensure we all have the social support we truly need. Seeking out a mentor is a great way to find that needed support.
Typically, the word “mentoring” brings to mind formal models or programs, for example Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, in which an adult volunteers to mentor a young person in a one-to-one relationship. However, mentoring relationships can and should come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and spaces.
In educational settings, school and career counselors play such a critical role for students in terms of both personal and academic success. Because most schools have one counselor working to support 250+ students, other school-based mentors like teachers, coaches, and student leaders are needed. Representation matters and mentors can be invaluable, particularly for students of color and those living with a disability, who might not see themselves reflected in the identities of the teachers and other staff at their schools.
That same potential and need of mentoring for youth exists for adults too. For people starting a new job or entering a new professional field, mentors can help their mentees adapt to their new situation and provide insider tips and advice specific to one’s career field. For those who want to advance their careers, mentors can help with identifying concrete steps to work towards one’s goals and provide accountability along the way. Their support can help mentees negotiate difficult relationships with co-workers or supervisors.
The mentoring relationship can be an older person mentoring a younger colleague or friend. Or, younger people can also mentor someone senior to them. Ideally, the support will go both ways. Because mentoring is all about relationships, it’s usually most effective when those relationships are mutually beneficial ones. While looking for opportunities to learn from someone else, it’s also important to keep an eye out for others who could benefit from our own knowledge and experience. This give and take is how we grow personally, and community is what mentoring is all about.
January is National Mentoring Month, recently bolstered by a proclamation from President Biden. As we kick off the new year in 2022, think about whether you might benefit from having a mentor in your life? Also, maybe there’s someone you’ve crossed paths with recently who might need you?