Serendipity calling #mentors

At several points in my life, there’s been serendipitous moments when I have “needed” some guidance, and often the right person turns up at the right moment, or the right piece of advice has appeared. This stems from that whole idea that you’ll only begin to learn when you are open to learning, or that you’ll only receive guidance when you are willing to take it on board. Sometimes, we’re not ready to listen, accept, learn from others, and other times, we are open to the support that others provide.

I’ve been doing some digging into the research to see what has already been discussed in the context of libraries & librarians, as well as investigating what form “mentoring” takes in other professions. Overall there doesn’t appear to be actually much that is profession specific – what I mean is that if you substitute library for business or nursing or teaching in the literature, the overall concepts are all still applicable. Mentoring is about sharing, learning, honesty, reflection, often regardless of the particular professional context.

Which got me thinking about whether the formal concept of professional mentoring is culture specific.

Earlier this year, I participated in a Coursera MOOC entitled “Aboriginal Worldviews and Education“, linked with a Canadian University, and the topic of “mentoring” was touched on by one of the other participants in terms of Western vs. Indigenous worldviews and a discussion about what intersections there were, and weren’t, across different cultural groups.And the concept of not questioning or challenging your elders, and people who are considered more senior to you, and how this might impact on your experience of mentoring/being mentored.

It wasn’t a long discussion in the MOOC context, but it did get me thinking, about the drivers for mentoring – whether it is driven by a mentee seeking a mentor, or if it is the mentor seeking a mentee. In some ways, it is kind of along the lines of succession planning, an experienced practitioner who shares their wisdom & knowledge with a new practitioner, even if the new practitioner doesn’t actually recognise yet that they are in the position of being mentored.

And yet, what are the differences when it is not a “experienced – learner” mentoring partnership? What are the implications for peer mentoring? The relationship and power balance are very different, and I wonder whether being part of a peer mentoring role has an impact on how a person later participates & engages in a more traditional “teacher-learner” mentor partnership.


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