Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. Interaction with an expert may also be necessary to gain proficiency with/in cultural tools. Mentorship experience and relationship structure affect the “amount of psychosocial support, career guidance, role modeling, and communication that occurs in the mentoring relationships in which the protégés and mentors engaged.”
The person in receipt of mentorship may be referred to as a protégé (male), a protégée (female), an apprentice or, in the 2000s, a mentee. The mentor may be referred to as a godfather or godmother or a rabbi.
“Mentoring” is a process that always involves communication and is relationship-based, but its precise definition is elusive, with more than 50 definitions currently in use. One definition of the many that have been proposed, is
Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)”.
Mentoring in Europe has existed since at least Ancient Greek times. Since the 1970s it has spread in the United States mainly in training contexts, with important historical links to the movement advancing workplace equity for women and minorities, and it has been described as “an innovation in American management”.
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