A mentor is a person with experience in a particular field of expertise, who agrees to tutor or guide someone to improve his or her craft in that field. Generally, the act of mentoring is selfless, a thing that the mentor does out of grace for someone else. The mentor is not hired, rather he (or she) makes himself available to someone in need of support.
The relationship is very much like a teacher to a student. It borrows from the long-standing entrepreneur tradition of a craft guild, in which a master craftsman instructs a journeyman who seeks to learn the necessary skills of the master’s craft, such as a blacksmith, a silversmith, a horse breeder, a sail mender, or whatever. The distinction between the two is that in a craft, the skill that is being passed from a master to a journeyman is one that involves the use of the hands to fashion a product to be sold or to create a work of art. Whereas, a mentor may additionally impart knowledge, political connections, or even a high order of friendship, akin to a family relationship.
Sometimes, a master is approached by a stranger, someone who has heard the reputation of the master and wants that particular person to mentor him or her. Other times, there is a natural progression, such as an uncle feeling a tug of the heart to mentor a wayward nephew, or a coach who realizes that one of his ball players comes from a broken family and is in need of a father figure beyond what the youth’s family can provide. The most selfless, and somewhat sad version reverses the norm. The mentor is the one who seeks a student, someone to take up his or her profession or art, a protege, a person who might follow in the master’s footsteps. The cause is usually a life change for the master, a sudden loss of employment, an unexpected geographic move, a physical impairment, or impending death.
The mentor relationship is more intense under such a condition. Time may be short. The mentor may be in physical pain. On top of all of that, the mentor did not expect to be mentoring at all in a relationship that was driven by circumstance. He or she may not be a great mentor because of it and the one that he or she selected may not have his or her heart in it either. Yet out of such sadness, a strong human bond might still be formed. Under any condition, a mentor should understand and practice the undertaking as a selfless act. It is giving of oneself wholly, without reservation, pure and simple.
Someone who receives the offer of a mentor is one who is blessed to enjoy the grace of another human being. The receiver should be humble, grateful, and accommodative. It would be a huge affront to make your mentor fit into some time slot to suit your personal schedule. The thing to do is to stop what you are doing, to welcome the mentor whenever he or she calls. After all, only your appreciation moves the mentor to offer you the selfless act of his or her time to provide you with the benefit of the enrichment of your life.