Sarah Riccio

Mentorship relationships foster a specific kind of intimacy that revolves around guidance and learning. A strong mentorship can be fundamental to growth and development, and offer myriad healthy benefits. Let's discuss what a mentorship is, the different types of mentor relationships, and some of the benefits that can come from these important bonds. 

What Is Mentorship?

First things first: what does mentorship mean? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as "a relationship between an experienced person or teacher and a younger one." That definition fits well with the traditional mentor/mentee model, but mentorship relationships are a little more nuanced than that. A mentor doesn't necessarily have to be the older one, nor does the student have to be younger. In fact, age hardly factors into the concept of a mentorship at all! Instead, a mentorship relationship is about the dynamic of teaching and learning. 

In a mentorship between two people, for example, one person bestows knowledge upon another person. The teacher, or mentor, typically has quite a bit of experience on the subject the student hopes to learn. On the other hand, the student is usually brand new or generally inexperienced in the subject. Thus, the mentor and mentee form a mutually nourishing bond (which we'll explore in greater depth later on) that benefits the both of them.

But, again, the number of years of experience the mentor has is not quite as important as the mentor's breadth of knowledge itself. For example, a teacher with 20 years of experience might also be tired of the subject matter, while a teacher with five years of experience might be enthusiastic and eager to mentor. A good mentor should have expertise and qualifications to teach as well as a positive attitude with eagerness to mentor. 

Now that we know what a mentor is, let's talk about the different types of mentorship relationships that are most common today. 

What Are The Three Types of Mentoring?

As I said, there are many different kinds of mentorship relationships that can include all kinds of different dynamics. Most dynamics and styles of mentorships fall under three types of mentoring: one-on-one, long-distance, and group. Let's examine each type of mentoring, along with some examples of each style. 

  • One-on-One Mentoring. This is considered the traditional, and perhaps most common, type of mentorship. In one-on-one mentoring, the teacher pays individual attention to the learner in order to provide a hands-on, detail oriented, immersive learning experience. Because the mentor has no other students to attend to, the learner gets to be the primary focus of each lesson. A good example of one-on-one mentoring is a Math tutor and student, or tattoo artist and apprentice. 
  • Long-Distance Mentoring. This style of mentoring is slightly less common than one-on-one, but is becoming increasingly popular as we rely more on virtual communication. Long-distance mentoring happens when the teacher and student (or students) are not in the same room together, but still conduct lessons as usual. This can be a great method of mentoring for folks who live far away from each other, or those whose schedules can only accommodate remote learning. A great example of this style of mentorship is YouTube tutorials or online workshops! 
  • Group Mentoring. The most obvious example of this style is probably the college professor/student body relationship, but that's not the only one! Group learning can be very successful for both students and teachers, as it allows everyone to ask questions and participate together. This can help students by giving them a chance to practice together under the guidance of the teacher! Another great example of group mentoring is a yoga class.

What Are The Benefits Of Mentorships?

You may be wondering about the benefits that come from mentoring. Let's take a closer look, shall we? After all, a mentorship relationship can be among the most valuable and fruitful types of relationships! 

Mentorships can benefit both students and mentors because they...

  • Encourage growth. A successful mentorship should be a growing experience for both the mentor and mentee. Just because the teacher happens to be the one "in the know" doesn't mean they have nothing to learn! A good teacher constantly looks for ways to improve and evolve, and the act of mentoring is the best practice for them. Meanwhile, the student is able to reap the benefits of every lesson. 
  • Prepare you for the future. The mentorship dynamic is one you'll encounter throughout your entire life. From elementary school teachers to corporate bosses, there is always someone to teach you and to learn from. Engaging in official mentorship relationships can be a great way to prepare you for your professional future and life in general!
  • Inspire you. Learning from someone you admire can encourage and motivate you to be your best self. By the same token, experiencing the joys of teaching and watching your students practice what you taught them can be equally inspiring in its own way. The best mentorships inspire and motivate both the teacher and students. 
  • Challenge you. Yes, a successful mentorship will be challenging at times. Why? Well, learning new things is never really easy, is it? Learning a new skill can be tough (and so can teaching it!), so remember to be patient with yourself and each other. Trust the process.
  • Give you a sense of purpose. The mentorship dynamic is uniquely symbiotic in the way it instills a sense of purpose in both the teacher and student. On one end of the scale, the teacher gets to flex the knowledge they've worked so hard to acquire, and pass it on to the eager-to-learn student. On the other end, the student gets all their questions answered and validates their desire to practice a specific area of interest. Perfect balance! 
  • Give you direction. Sometimes a mentorship isn't about learning a specific new skill. Rather, mentorships can be more centered around guidance and advice (picture a counselor/client relationship, for example). Regardless of the exact scenario, a successful mentorship should give you a sense of direction with regards to future plans.