…and now I’m officially one myself. At least according to American University.
As of last week’s kick-off ceremony, I’m now an alumni participant in the AU School of International Service mentoring program, and thus a mentor to one lucky young senior in SIS—which is a bit ironic given that I wrote in Working World about my hefty ambivalence toward the concept of mentors. One reviewer of the book took this ambivalence to mean that I don’t believe in mentors at all—that I completely reject the concept—which I think overstates things. It’s more accurate to say that I’ve never been completely comfortable with the concept, nor have I actively sought out any mentors, or ever imagined myself as one.
But here I am. Not only as an official mentor myself, but also pointing out in events we do for Working World how my view of the concept seems to be evolving over time. While I still don’t love the “mentor-protege” terminology, I’ve at least come to see that I do in fact have mentors in my life and that a mentor doesn’t have to be someone you seek out to give that title and fulfill that “role.” Rather mentors can and should be those to whom you naturally gravitate—relationships that form organically on the basis of mutual interest and respect, nothing that is forced or artificial.
Which I realize is a little bit contradictory to my participation in a formal mentoring program, which are by nature a bit forced and artificial. But I’m looking forward to it nonetheless. In our initial meeting, my AU senior, as I’ll call her (I refuse to call her my protege), and I seemed to be on the same page. We both admitted we’re “not really sure how this works” and that we’d just play it by ear, keep it fast and loose, and see how things went. We’d be natural and not force anything. I think that’s the right way to go.
More updates from my trials and tribulations as an AU mentor as things evolve…