It’s a well-known fact that life is full of changes. How these curves are navigated can make all the difference between a life worth living and a life of hardship. Of all of the methods available, having access to someone willing to share the lessons of a journey they’ve already taken ranks among the most effective and unrivaled ways to crush life and all its surprises. This is the basis for what is known as near-peer mentorship.

Near-peer mentorship is an essential part of a person’s development at nearly any age. It can be seen in children who help their siblings and classmates. Older students befriend younger students and guide them through the ups and downs of adolescence. The workforce is rife with examples of interns and entry-level employees being seasoned by savvy, tenured professional in their career fields.

The common denominator in all these scenarios is the close proximity of the mentor (the teacher) to the mentee (the student), hence the “near” in near peer mentorship. The approach is what makes this form of education so special. The bonds of trust tend to grow stronger and deeper because the mentee is able to experience, sometimes first-hand, the results of the lessons given by their mentor. The mentor benefits from his or her ability to promote progress and correct mistakes before they occur.

Near-peer mentorship, even at its most efficient, has its pitfalls. One of the most common issues involves the “age gap,” the difference in years between the mentor and mentee. For example, this can rear its ugly head when technology is in play. The gift of having a mentor is that they can reveal the nuts and bolts of how an operation works. The curse is that the mentor may shun technological advances that actually enhance the learning experience. An effective near-peer mentor is capable of acknowledging the importance of past practices while embracing present realities.

There is something amazing about having an experienced advisor who is willing to guide a novice in exploring the peaks and valleys of life’s progress. An advanced degree or years of intense experience isn’t always needed. A deep-rooted, durable near peer mentorship can start with something as simple as a word of advice to a friend or student in transition from high school to college. Every person has a story to tell and a lesson to teach, and the world benefits from hearing both.