The Role You Play: 4 Roles of Being a Mentor


Maya Angelou once said, “All great achievements require time.” 

Simply put, Maya. This concept can also carry into mentorship: both in the practice of mentorship and the commitment it takes to effectively mentor an individual. 

But where do you start? Mentorship can come in many shapes and sizes — and contrary to popular belief — just because you may be a mentor to someone else, doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t also need mentorship yourself. Mentorship is a function of experience, not stature. 

Consider an Uber driver. Just because they are driving for Uber doesn’t mean that they may not pick up the app and order a ride for themselves too. 

Keep reading to learn more about becoming a mentor and the roles you can play as you start on your journey. 

The Four Roles of a Mentor

Throughout the mentoring relationship, mentors can serve as an advisor, motivator, guide and referral agent. Each role helps to deepen the relationship you have with your mentee to create trust and build credible connections. 

Let’s dive into each of these roles further: 

Mentor as an Advisor

Mentors can help mentees by making suggestions and providing advice that makes the mentee’s aspirations attainable. Many times mentees know what they want but lack the experience to understand how to begin the journey. As an advisor, the mentor can best serve the mentee by helping them know the best place to start their journey. 

So, how do mentors serve as an advisor? By asking questions to determine what the mentee knows and how their previous experiences contribute to the right next step in their journey. Seek to understand the gap between where the mentee is and where they want to be. That way, you can advise them on what actions and activities will best serve them and what challenges they can expect on their journey. 

Mentor as a Motivator

Career decisions always push mentees into uncomfortable and unfamiliar thoughts and actions. Mentors can serve mentees by helping to instill a sense of confidence and perspective as they try on new behaviors and attitudes. As a motivator, the mentor can help the mentee by sharing their struggles and giving encouragement. 

So, how do mentors serve as a motivator? By making it easy for the mentee to share their struggles and the thinking behind them. Seek to understand the difficulties that the mentee is facing. So that you can better empathize and engage them through encouragement. Most of the time, the most reassuring action that a mentor can take is acknowledging their struggle. The motivating mentor keeps in mind that change is hard, setbacks happen, and we learn and grow through them.

Mentor as a Guide

Think back to when you were younger and trying to navigate the world. Did you have a helpful guide like The Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi or Yoda from Star Wars? If you didn’t, wouldn’t you have liked one? Now that you’re more experienced, you have the opportunity to guide someone who is in the same position that you were once in. Practicing mentorship is like being a guide, but thankfully, you don’t need to be a Jedi or a karate master to become a mentor.

As a guide, you can help to shed a light on what it’s really like to work at a large tech company or the soft skills a mentee should be cultivating in order to be a successful software developer, based on your own experiences. Your unique points of view can pay out in dividends as you educate the next generation of leaders on what they truly need to know as they start their own careers. Even the smallest nuggets of wisdom — like the type of laptop they should consider investing in — can make a huge difference for a mentee! 

Mentor as a Referral Agent 

The old adage, “knowledge is power” rings true even in the practice of mentorship. The knowledge you have about the industry you are in or the career path you have taken, whether that is in the form of a Mentor Spaces roundtable discussion you participate in, a relevant article from your industry, or a link to a webinar you thought was helpful, are immense resources you can pass along to mentees. 

You can act as the conduit between a mentee and the career aspirations they have, simply by taking a few actions within the Mentor Spaces platform. You may not realize it now but you are a powerful source of information, and the community is ready to learn from you.

Join the Mentor Spaces Community

No matter the role you play, we’re here to help. Join the Mentor Spaces community today to start engaging in the practice of mentorship. 

Got experiences to share? Consider becoming a mentor today.