I recently read a fun article, titled Mentor or Mentos: A Comparison, that talked about some of the differences between Mentors (the guiding person) and Mentos (the candy). As I thought (and researched) more about it, I realized the two m-e-n-t-o words have more in common than you might think.
But first, here’s a classic Mentos commercial to get us started. (Seriously you should watch it, not just to put a smile on your face but also so you understand some of my references below.)
For more of the best Mentos commercials, check out the Top 10 Classic Mentos Commercials.
This one is obvious (for English speakers), the words “Mentos” and “Mentors” are just one letter off. The word Mentor has been around longer–it was the name of a character in Homer’s Odyssey, though the modern definition stems from a book from 1699; Mentos were first introduced in the 1950’s in the Netherlands.
Mentos are described as “small oblate spheroids, with a slightly hard exterior and a soft, chewy interior.” The best mentors are the same way (ignoring the spheroids-shape thing): they have a slightly hard exterior (meaning they won’t be afraid to give you constructive criticism) and a soft interior (ultimately they want you to succeed). If your mentor doesn’t call out what you’ve done wrong or what you could do better, it’s like have Gummi bears instead of Mentos–sure their nice to have, but they’re not going to help you fix a suit you just got paint on.
The (Known) Benefit
If the Mentos jingle is to be believed, and I think we can all agree it can be, then “(Doo doo doo doo, doo-doo, do-Wah!) It doesn’t matter what comes, fresh goes better in life, and Mentos is fresh and full of life.” As with Mentos, if you have a mentor, it doesn’t matter what comes because, between you and your mentor, you’ll be able to figure it out. Nothing will get to you because you’ll stay fresh with new ideas from someone else who is experienced and can provide an outside perspective, and you’ll be cool with the confidence knowing that someone who is doing (or has done) what you ultimately want to do has your back.
The (Secret) Benefit
Most people know the main benefit of Mentos–they’re enjoyable candies you can snack on (and they can help you solve everyday problems). Most people know the main benefit of Mentors–they’re enjoyable people that help propel your career with expert guidance and perspective from years of experience (and they can help you solve everyday problems). But an additional secret benefit has recently come up for Mentos and Mentors. For Mentos, it’s the amazing ability they have to turn Diet Coke into an awesome geyser. For Mentors, it’s the amazing ability to turn a mentor into a more knowledgeable, connected leader. The term is called “reverse mentoring” and it’s the insight and perspective a more experienced person can learn from a newer person in the workplace. Sure, watching an exploding geyser of Diet Coke is more fun than witnessing reverse mentoring, but it’s probably not as valuable to your organization (probably).