Mentoring has been around since the Odyssey. Most people are familiar with the tale of Odysseus returning from the Trojan Wars to find that his old friend Mentor had supported his son Telemachus, during his long absence. However, are you also aware than Mentor was actually the Goddess Aphrodite in the guise of Mentor? So the first mentor was actually female!
Formal mentoring became most visible with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters programme in New York in the 1920s and mentoring soon became an important part of the US corporate development scene. In the 1980s and 1990s it became more popular in the UK with the Labour Government using it extensively post 1997 as a tool to deal with “remedial” school children, unfortunately not a move which endeared it to all the parents at the time. Up to three or four years ago, mentoring programmes were flourishing in many private and public sector organisations as well as being used extensively in educational institutions and associations. With the rise in popularity of coaching, mentoring took more of a back seat with energy being put into coaching in the line, internal coach and executive coaching initiatives, mentoring becoming more of the poor relation and coaching gaining more interest, particularly in the corporate arena.
However, mentoring is becoming more popular again. With some people it never went out of flavour, but there is an enormous surge of interest in using mentoring in organisations, particularly around talent development and supporting women. The cost effectiveness of setting up a programme versus bringing in external coaching support is a no brainer and learning and development professionals realise this.
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