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Nurturing Your Niche: The Role of Mentoring

Mentoring is one of the more well-known types of guidance and support but it differs from the others in its focus, type of support and its purpose. Mentoring is a relationship-based type of guidance in which a more experienced individual known as the mentor provides advice, counsel, and wisdom to a less experienced individual who is known as the mentee. Mentoring often involves the mentor sharing their knowledge, insights and experience with the mentee to help them navigate through their personal or professional (career) development, or specific challenges they encounter along the way. 

Mentoring relationships tend to be more informal in nature as well as being long-term focusing on a more holistic development in contrast to focusing on specific tasks or projects that have more of a short-term deadline or goal. “Mentorships” can evolve over time so where a university professor may have been assigned the role of mentor to an individual student or a group of students, it is not uncommon for that relationship to continue after graduation. The student-professor role may have concluded but the mentor-mentee relationship may continue on through the acquisition of more advanced degrees for the mentee and/or during the mentee’s launch into a new profession or career field. 

In the experience of Dr. Mary Ann Markey, several individuals who had been her students have become her colleagues and now collaborate with her on the publication of textbooks, research projects, international conference presentations, and as co-organizers of TEDx standard events. While the terms “mentoring,” “consulting,” and “coaching” all involve providing guidance and support for others, mentoring focuses on the mentee’s development rather than their problem-solving skills. Mentoring focuses on the dynamics of relationships (informal vs. professional) and methods (sharing narratives and experiences vs. providing solutions vs. facilitating self-discovery). Each of these three approaches has its own benefits depending upon the context and the objectives.

Dr. Mary Ann Markey