When I started my journey as a mentee, I was plagued by guilt and the feeling that I was wasting the time effort of my mentor. I didn't know enough, and I was convinced there were better, more experienced young people out there more worthy of my mentor's time and efforts. It took me a long time to feel like I was a leader and someone worthy of the time and effort of my mentors.
Your achievements, work titles, awards, degrees - can be intimidating. But I came to realise that these titles, awards, and degrees don’t make you a leader. What sets you apart was your ability to continually learn, push outside of you comfort zone, and help others.
While being a Mentor is an excellent way to give back, understanding some common misperceptions Mentees hold about mentoring can provide some insight into why emerging leaders can avoid seeking Mentors.
Mentoring is a one-way street …
Being a mentor means helping your mentee find the skills they need to excel, but that doesn’t mean mentors are selfless. Mentoring is a huge opportunity to improve our skills and try new ways to lead.
I know when someone asks me questions or enquires about an experience I've had, it opens up my eyes about how much knowledge I have tucked away. Being invited to share is something that makes my heart sing.
Plus, being a mentor means learning from the perspective of our emerging leaders, and listening to workplace concerns. There are people in our organisations going through similar challenges - the more we learn about your Mentee, the better skilled we are to support similar problems in our workplace.
You only need one mentor …
One mentor is better than none, but building our personal resource library (which includes mentors) is vital for ongoing career development.
Mentors have strong skills but the more we have, the better able we are to understand different perspectives and see different ways of doing. For me, I started with one mentor. We had coffee, he listened and listened some more. He introduced me to his networks and opened my eyes to the power of mentoring. Realising that the more supporters and champions I had around me the better leader I could become. I now have multiple mentors that I can call at a moments notice. Mentors who are experts in management, leadership, sales, impact measurement, and also those who are ready to answer the call when I need encouragement after a horrible day (or week) in the office.
What is your mentor journey like? Do you have more than one mentor yourself?
Mentoring relationships are organic ...
Mentoring partnerships take time and effort - for both the mentor and mentee.
The effort to organise meetings. The effort to follow up. The effort to build a connection with each other.
But effort doesn’t mean anything bad! For me, the effort I’ve put in has been worth its weight in gold. Usually, these relationships come pretty naturally. I enjoy catching up and hearing about my mentor's life and getting to know them as a person, but when it comes to talking about myself and what I want to achieve … it’s something I have always found difficult to articulate and share with others. It’s something my mentors know I’m working on ...
Others find the reverse - they find it easy to articulate their wants and needs, but difficult to connect on a personal level. What about you?
Mentors choose their mentees …
This all depends on personal experience, BUT it’s up to both the Mentor and Mentee to each look at what they want and decide if a mentoring partnership is really what they want right now, and how this relationship will help them grow and evolve over the long and short-term.
I have had potential (and actual) mentors invite me out for coffee and offer their support as a mentor. At the beginning of my mentoring journey as it made me realise that I could be a leader and I soaked up as much info as I could.
Now with a lot of mentoring experience under my belt, I go out of my way to find mentors with essential skills that I need to develop. I approach industry leaders, talk to them on Skype (or face-to-face) over coffee, Finding out who they are, our shared passions, and I get to ask them some key questions. It's then I can really tell if this mentoring partnership is something I want to continue with long term.
Do you actively seek your own Mentees (or proteges)?
If something goes bad, it’s all my fault …
Bad mentoring partnerships happen.
It’s one of the key fears of new Mentees.
Learning about good and bad mentoring partnerships is all part of the adventure, but if this is the only experience of mentoring one has had, then it’s easy to understand why some don’t actively pursue these partnerships
I’ve had terrible mentoring partnerships where I worked SO hard to make it work. I asked great questions, and put pressure on myself to be the best mentee and make a great impression … then the relationship just fell apart (sometimes really badly). That's when I learned to reflect and see that it was never a relationship that was ever going to work.
Luckily I have had both good and bad mentoring experiences. I know how a great mentoring partnership makes me feel and grow. I also know the signs of bad mentors (and what that looks like for me), and I steer clear when these red flags pop up.
You need a mentor to succeed.
False! Mentors can help accelerate your career path but they aren’t vital to success.
We can all learn from observing others, reading, and applying knowledge.
Mentors can help us find shortcuts and networks to support our goals, but it’s all up to us, how we build relationships, and what we want to get out of a mentoring partnership.
Mentoring is a rare experience, only for those lucky few …
Mentoring is available to anyone. It’s about identifying who is in your network, joining programs (like this one), and being purposeful about why you want a mentee (or mentor) in the first place. By attending conferences, professional events, or reaching out to people you admire you can find mentors and mentees anywhere and anytime.
Comment below, which mentoring myth resonates most with you?