Innovative Planning, Level Three: Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring. The purpose of this project is to give a speech about a time when you were a protégé, and share the impact and importance of having a mentor.
Mentorship is defined as “the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution.” It can happen in many circumstances, but is mostly strongly associated with the workplace, or business in general.
I found it very difficult to prepare this speech because I’ve never had an official mentor.
Part of me wonders if this is because I’m female. In many ways, women are taught to compete with each other — why should I help her get one of the few roles at my company that will go to a woman, when I’m also in the running for that single position? There are also men who are uninterested or unwilling to mentor women, or who are too scared because of the #metoo movement to try.
But I think what’s more likely, at least for me, is that times have simply changed. No longer are you hired as a junior executive and encouraged to emulate Don Draper in all things as you move up in the company that you work at for 20, 30, 40 years.
Everyone, especially millennials, tends to job hop. This means the mentorship process is much less formal, and you may have more than one depending on what you need at the time. It’s hard to develop a single relationship that lasts for years.
I haven’t been able to find a mentor at any of my jobs, but I’ve found a good number of them in the pages of history books. There are three people I particularly love: President Abraham Lincoln, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius.
It’s not lost on me that my mentors are a bunch of dead, mostly white dudes, but let’s face it, they’re cool.
- Lincoln led the US through a war that took the lives of 620,000 soldiers while also struggling with what we now would call clinical depression.
- Roosevelt fought his own weak body in childhood, read a book a day even as President, and traveled through absurdly extreme conditions to map 471 miles of what became the Roosevelt River in the heart of the Amazon jungle.
- Aurelius wrote, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Which was basically him saying, so you ran into a problem? Tough luck. Use that to your advantage and find a way to succeed despite it.
For me, these men’s lives, leadership, and tenacity operate as touchstones, things I come back to again and again when I experience challenges, whether at work or in life.
I’m not the only one who’s stretching the classic definition of mentorship. The small book club I co-founded a couple years ago is filled with smart women, and we’ve shared career advice and asked each other for help with all aspects of our lives.
My company is also partnering with an organization that matches employees with career coaches. These are shorter-term relationships than traditional mentoring, but they can bridge the gap and give us resources to help us resolve issues or reach our goals.
The modern age has changed mentorship, but I don’t think it’s necessarily changed for the worst. It’s just different, more community- or technology-based. More than ever, it’s up to each individual to know their own goals and find the resources to meet them. And I think that’s a great thing. Thank you.