The word mentor comes from the character 'Mentor' in Homer's epic tale, The Odyssey. Mentor was a trusted friend of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca. When Odysseus fought in the Trojan War, Athena, in disguise as a mentor, served as friend and counsel to Odysseus' son Telemachus.
A mentor is a person who guides a less experienced person by building trust and providing positive feedback. A mentor can be a friend, guide, teacher, advisor, instructor, guru, coach, etc. Most often, mentors are senior to the individuals they mentor. But this is not always the case. 'Mentee' is a commonly used term to describe an individual receiving mentoring from a mentor.
Mentoring is a process that always involves communication and is relationship-based. The importance of mentors in human life has been extolled since biblical times. In the book of Proverb, the role of a mentor is glorified with the line- "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."
The term 'mentor' is often mistaken with the term 'teacher.' A teacher is someone who provides knowledge, lessons, rules, and information to the students. They have their prescribed subjects and syllabus. On the other hand, a mentor is someone who provides life lessons from experience, guides the mentee in each step and sees him/her through no matter what. The relationship between a teacher and a student is a bit formal, whereas the bond between a mentor and a mentee is a little unconventional and more heartfelt. However, a teacher can also be a mentor, nonetheless.
The role of a mentor should be introduced from the school level as mentors play a considerable role in mental development and well-being. Unfortunately, other than some foreign curriculum-based schools, the designation of a mentor is not enrolled yet at the school level. Most students are not even familiar with the concept of a mentor.
"I feel very lucky to be part of Holy Cross College as they appoint mentors for every student. The students are divided into groups according to their roll number and a teacher is employed for each group to mentor the members. Not that I have been benefitted from a mentor personally, but I have seen other students reaching out to them and speaking their hearts," says Sharmila Shaha, delightfully. She is a final year medical student at Salimullah Medical College and an alumnus of Holy Cross College. She believes, having a post of a full-time mentor is as important as having a physical education teacher.
The vital reason why having a mentor at the school level is important is there are kids having family issues, getting bullied, struggling with puberty and other hardships. They really need to open up to someone and share their problems. Otherwise, it becomes a big threat to their mental development.
On the contrary, the purpose mentoring serves to a university student is much more significant and comprehensive as this period navigates their entire life. In simple words, university life is a maze. Having too many open doors often leads to confusion and frustration. So, having a good mentor at that point is like having a lifesaver. A true mentor aids career progression offers advice, supports and assists the mentee with prior knowledge and experience in a wide range of topics and scenarios.
"A true mentor is a life changer. Having a good mentor during university life is a big fortune as mentors give a kick start to a career and higher studies. A popular misconception about having a mentor is that people think they should keep only one mentor. One can have multiple mentors at a time in his/her life and that is not bad," shares Mazbahul Islam, programme manager at YY Venture Limited.
Mazbahul had amazing mentors in his undergrad life, and he is truly inspired by them. Now he is mentoring other people. It is a positive cycle. He believes having several mentors helps one have diverse insights and understand situations better.
A mentor can have a lasting impact on the life of a student as they are relentless confidence boosters. It is important to seek a mentor in university life as the struggles a fresher or a sophomore goes through, a mentor might have gone through similar stages already. So, the advice a mentor gives them from his/her personal experiences proves to be helpful to handle specific situations. A true mentor acknowledges the shortcomings of the mentee and develops his/her strength.
The relationship between a mentor and a mentee is pretty symbiotic. Both of them are mutually benefitted. Throughout the mentoring process, a mentor improves his/her communication and personal skills. It develops leadership and management qualities. Mentorship can give a sense of fulfilment and helps in personal growth as well.
Mentoring people enhances one's friend circle. A mentor is an awakener, an encouraging force from behind the curtain. Having the right mentor at the right time is a blessing.
Kaniz is a fourth-year student of Geography and Environment at the University of Dhaka.
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