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Today I read an article on mentorship, with the author making the distinction between a coach and a mentor. This writer defines coaching as a transactional relationship – one person teaching the other something specific, or helping the other to achieve specific goals, while mentoring is about building a relationship to foster the personal and professional growth of the mentee.

This got me to thinking, how many of us bookkeeping and accounting professionals are “paying it forward” by mentoring those coming up behind us? Rising stars can hire coaches to help them through a list of steps to grow their client base, create a website, or hire new staff. But how do our younger colleagues find a mentor?

Many of us belong to networking groups, or have developed a network of colleagues met at the industry conferences we attend. I have noticed that newcomers to our field gravitate towards more established practitioners, to ask them “how did you do it?” How did we get started, how did we select our niche, how did we grow our practice? It’s one thing to answer questions, but it’s another to take someone under your wing and invest in their growth.

The article’s author turns the tables on the mentor-mentee relationship by positing that in these busy times, most of us at the mentor-level of our careers are not going to take the initiative of saying, “Hmm, I think I’ll select someone to mentor today.” Instead, he puts the onus on the student to ask themselves some questions such as: What do I want to learn? Who do I know of who could be a rewarding teacher? And, what do I bring to the table that would interest the teacher in accepting me as a student?

This model makes sense in today’s fast-paced world. So I suggest that when we meet potential students who are asking us questions, we reflect upon what this person is really asking for – is it a quick answer, or is it something deeper? If the student is seeking more, consider building a deeper professional relationship. We might find the give and take just as rewarding as the student.

Here is the manual link to the article I read:

Where Are All the Mentors? From Being Seen to Seeing