The Canadian Public Relations Society

Exploring the definitions of mentorship

In Mentorship on April 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Hello again from the mentorship program,

We’re well into our term with our mentors and find that time is flying by, and we have much more to accomplish before our program officially comes to an end.

One of the items on the list of our objectives for the term was to read The Mentor’s Spirit by Marsha Sinetar, a books recommended to us by CPRS member, and my personal mentor, Judi Gunter. I’ve read the book and would like to share some of what I gained from it before passing it on to my fellow protégés (a word I picked up from the book to describe our “mentee” group).

What is a mentor? I’m sure all of us have our own definitions of what a mentor is to us, though Sinetar sets the stage at the beginning of her book by describing a mentor as “a person, a guide or a teacher- the keeper of selective wisdoms that we hope to gain” she continues by stating that a mentor’s spirit “deepens our sense of the sacred or our understanding or transmits a kind of gladness about life itself.”

I’m sure that many of us have been mentored by colleagues, or friends, without that person thinking, ‘I want to mentor you’, and without us thinking, ‘I want a mentor’. Sinetar points out that with a “mentor’s spirit, we automatically influence others”.  This is the nature of a group such as CPRS. Each one of us, whether we recognize it or not, has something valuable to share with the group, and thus in a way, each one of us acts as a mentor to others. We have discovered this phenomenon in our protégé group; that we have mentored each other.

Sinetar describes a good mentor as someone who teaches his or her protégé to learn, instead of telling them what to do. A good mentors’ task should be to ease themselves out of a job, she states. It is through this independence that people are able to go out and leave their own mark in the world and become strong mentors themselves.

“Productive mentors help us feel related, rooted, less frightened, less alone. These are the good stewards whose compelling drives civilize society”.

This book led me to a greater understanding of the idea or ideal of mentorship. It’s not so much about ensuring you have the right definition, and there is no such thing as right or wrong conversations to have with a mentor. It is about the ongoing process of mentorship in our lives, and considering the ways in which we mentor and how others mentor us every day, often without even realizing we are part of a mentorship circle.

Tammy Schwass is a recent graduate of the Communications Studies program at the University of Calgary. As a student she represented CPRS on campus and helped organize student events. She is currently working as the Investor Relations Coordinator at FLYHT, AeroMechanical Services in Calgary. Contact Tammy at

  1. It’s been years since I read Sinnetar’s book. I know the author resonated with me back then, and I may find that different things reach out to me now. The quote about mentors that Tammy selected in her post — “These are the good stewards whose compelling drives civilize society” — is an example. Wow! This goes beyond the one-to-one relationships we usually think of when we think of mentors and proteges.

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