Giving Back

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What does it mean to be a mentor?

Mentors can serve as trusted confidantes to young people in need of professional guidance, providing the support or advice many need to break into a given industry.

While mentoring is most commonly associated with the professional arena, it need not be restricted to corporate environments. When looking to give back to their communities, men and women may not think of mentoring. However, mentoring can be a powerful empowerment and personal development tool, for both mentors and the people being mentored. The following are a handful of tips to foster a successful mentoring relationship.

• Ask a lot of questions. Mentors should expect to field a lot of questions, but they also should ask their share of questions. Asking questions is a good way to challenge people and get them thinking about various scenarios and situations they may find themselves in. This will help shape the person you're mentoring into an individual who can anticipate situations and deal with them on his or her own.

• Ensure confidentiality. Confidentiality should be of paramount importance in a mentoring relationship. The person you're mentoring should feel comfortable coming to you with any situation and have your support, as trust is essential to the mentor-mentee relationship.

• Stretch a person's abilities. The goal of a mentor is not to solve all of his or her mentee's problems. Delegate tasks and  provide advice to lead the mentee in the right direction. Encourage a mentee to take on more responsibilities, which can instill confidence and facilitate personal growth.

• Enjoy the experience. Mentors benefit from mentoring, which can provide satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment that results from knowing you played an integral role in the success of another person. If your career is in a slump, mentoring may provide the breath of fresh air you need to recharge. Mentoring also may give you insight into another person's life, which can be used in your own personal development. As long as your goal is the success and support of the mentee, mentoring can be a selfless act that touches the lives of others.

Formal mentoring programs exist, but mentoring relationships often begin when a less formal connection forms between two people. Should a friend, employee or colleague ask for your assistance in mentoring, embrace this compliment and make the most of your opportunity to aide in the growth of another person.