Passing it on

Most successful adults have had mentors who provided guidance and support. If you have benefited from a mentoring relationship, perhaps it’s time to pass it on and become a mentor to a young person.

This week I was catching up on Facebook and saw a beautiful tribute from a friend to his mentor, Ken, who introduced him to a career in photography and guided him through the years. Ken had passed away suddenly. I looked at Ken’s profile and saw many similar postings from successful photographers who all thanked Ken for helping open doors, teaching techniques and more than anything, for being a caring friend. Ken shared his knowledge, passion and time throughout the years and influenced many lives. By the smiles in the pictures, I would guess that he had a great time doing it.

The Mentoring Project by Esquire Magazine asks famous men, “Who made you the man you are today?” The men provide a vast array of answers and stories that include family members, teachers, supervisors and coaches. While the answers vary, one thing is clear- behind every successful individual, there are mentors who cared, taught and assisted along the way. A mentor is someone who takes the time to develop a relationship and offer support and guidance to another person. Michigan State University Extension recommends thinking of someone who has done this for you, perhaps it is time for you to pass it on and become a mentor to a young person.

Mentoring can be done formally through programs like 4-H Youth Mentoring or it can be done informally, as was the case for my friend and Ken. Some people prefer the structure and support offered through a mentoring program while others naturally develop mentoring relationships with young people they encounter through coaching, teaching and other experiences and venues. Most youth mentoring programs have a long list of youth who are waiting to get matched with a mentor. To find a program near you, go to MENTOR and enter your zip code. If you choose to go the informal route, check out this article for some tips to help you develop a strong mentoring relationship and share the lessons you have learned along the way.

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