1. Wink, Diane EdD, FNP, ARNP

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Mentoring is a term commonly used when talking about how one individual supports and fosters the progression of another individual to help this individual meet life goals. We usually talk about mentoring related to meeting professional life goals. However, mentoring is, and can be, so much more. This is made clear in Discovering Your Mentoring Mosaic: A Guide to Enhanced Mentoring,1 a new book by Lu Ann Darling. Throughout this book, Darling analyzes the many forms of the mentoring experience and offers multiple strategies to optimize those experiences, be you the mentor or mentee. In this text, mentoring is seen as an active process, a way of connecting with a source-whether with a person, an experience, a model, a book, or, most often, a combination of these-to find guidance to learn and to grow.


Discovering Your Mentoring Mosaic is based on knowledge gained through interviews with more than 200 individuals, some of whom were interviewed at different points in their lives. The professions reflected in these interviews include business, health (nursing, medicine, and other fields), and the arts. The book is enriched by a rich array of brief excerpts from these interviews to illustrate concepts as they are described. In a final chapter, 5 vignettes in the form of extended interviews pull together the concepts presented in the text.


What is most striking about this book is the analysis of what does and does not work from within a framework that acknowledges that the duration, structure, depth, and scope of effective mentoring experiences vary greatly. Darling uses the phrase "Goldilocks" to describe how we need mentoring experiences that are "just right" at each point in our life. Our mentoring needs change over time as our needs, values, and knowledge and the world around us change.


The book starts with an exploration of 7 basic elements of the mentoring mosaic. These are mentor bonding, messages, models, relationships, experiences, environments, and self-mentoring. Each chapter beautifully builds on those before and culminates in summary chapters that pull all the ideas and concepts together. Although the author offers suggestions to those who are looking for specific content about the mentoring experience, reading the chapters in order will increase your appreciation and enjoyment of the material in the final chapters.


Early chapters review mentor bonding and how early life events impact our future mentoring experiences. Darling identifies key factors that affect our ability to seek out and benefit from mentoring relationships. These include early experiences with parents, siblings, relatives, and friends. The interview excerpts clearly illustrate how these interactions can impact our future mentoring experiences (who we choose or seek out as mentors and what type of relationship we may seek to have) in life, both positively and negatively. However, as happens throughout the book, there is no suggestion that any one bad mentor experience, including a negative parent-child relationship, dooms an individual to failure. Review of these early experiences helps us identify our own mentor-bonding style and ability to benefit from mentoring experiences. Darling suggests that a major factor that determines the effectiveness of a mentoring experience is whether the relationship has 3 key characteristics. These are respect, trust, and relevance. We must respect and trust someone who would be our mentor and must feel that they offer us something seen as relevant to our needs. All 3 characteristics must be present for an effective mentoring relationship to result.


An extensive discussion of the 3 mentoring forms-traditional (where an older, seasoned professional helps a younger colleague), step ahead (where, often, the mentor is 1 generation ahead of the mentee), and comentoring (where peers, who may be siblings or friends, help those at similar points in their lives)-follows. There is then discussion of the relationship itself. There is a need for an emotional attachment between the mentee and mentor. Most important, action, or interaction, between the 2 individuals must occur. Action is what makes the relationship a mentoring one.


This text goes beyond a discussion of person-to-person career mentoring. The chapters on self-mentoring, mentoring environments, and mentoring for retirement present information on 3 rarely discussed aspects of the mentoring experience. When we engage in self-mentoring, we choose to participate in activities, sometimes alone, that move us toward our life goals. By the self-mentoring choices we make, we take an active role in shaping our future. Examples are what we read, organizations in which we participate, and life events such as travel.


Thus, someone who wants to write takes on volunteer jobs where writing is integral; someone who would like to work as an advanced registered nurse practitioner in primary care in the future seeks out jobs in primary care practices rather than acute care or a non-health site while in college; another person hopes to become a top-level administrator, so he or she reads biographies of individuals who have succeeded in that role.


Mentoring environments help individuals obtain the skills, knowledge, and capabilities that will be needed to achieve their personal and professional goals. There may be individuals in these environments with whom more traditional mentor-mentee relationships will be developed. However, such a personal relationship (and the emotional attachment and action required for a true mentor relationship) is not essential. Rather, a location, agency, or organization can have unique characteristics that cause them to serve as a "mentor" because of how they promote development and help participants meet career and personal goals. Examples of mentoring environments are schools, volunteer activities, sports teams, and some jobs (eg, the military). Such environments become a mentoring environment when they provide opportunities for participants to refine specific skills or increase knowledge.


Mentoring for retirement is rarely discussed as we examine the mentoring experience. However, just as we need to develop mentor-mentee relationships, place ourselves in mentoring environments, and self-mentor in preparation for our formal work career, we can and must do this for our life after work. For some, this involves preparation for entry into another aspect of our professional life. For others, it includes consideration of how we will participate in our profession in new ways. For others, considerations of how health and financial status will impact our future are essential.


Just as we can have a step ahead and peer mentors to prepare for our work careers, we can benefit from mentors who will help us "retool" for retirement. As our retirements are becoming longer and more active, such mentoring will become more and more important.


The book concludes with a summary of all that has been presented and the suggestion that we each evaluate ourselves. For example, to help optimize our mentoring experience, we can consider the following:


* At this stage of my life and career, my motivation is (getting ahead, high, free, deeper, refocused, balanced, and secure) because:


* Comparing my motivation with demographic trends and career opportunities, I want to consider these goals:


* My current mentoring needs are:


* Reviewing my mentoring lifeprint, my mentor-bonding pattern, and my mentoring mosaic, I need to be aware that:


* My self-mentoring strategies that are well-developed and useful are:


* The external trends and aspects of my mentoring process that could be obstacles to my career and life objectives are:


* Reviewing trends, my goals, my strengths, and my limitations, my next steps in managing my mentoring are (as mentor, as mentee):



Even if you have read other texts on mentoring, this book will help you think anew about the mentoring experience as both a mentor and mentee, as well as your personal mentoring mosaic.




1. Darling LAW. Discover Your Mentoring Mosaic: A Guide to Enhanced Mentoring. Bangor, Me:, Inc; 2006. [Context Link]