Written by: Taylor Stauffer
Whether you are a mentor or a mentee, the whole relationship of mentorship can be fraught with myths and misconceptions.
Here are six myths that you should dispel from your thought processes right away.
Myth #1 — The best mentors work at other companies and make more than you do
While you are likely to look for a mentor who is more seasoned than you are, which means they likely at are a higher pay grade than you, that shouldn’t be the determining factor. For example, if you’re new to a certain type of business model, working with someone who may in fact be relatively junior but who has been doing the job for a while could be very helpful to give you the ground level intelligence that you need to move forward.
And as to the location of the mentor, that also should not matter. You are looking for someone who can guide you and provide you with a certain level of information. That person may be at another company, or they might be in the management ranks at your company. There is no hard and fast rule and some would argue that ‘keeping it in the family’ makes more sense, from a group dynamic and information sharing point of view.
Myth #2 — The mentor / mentee you have now is your first, last and only
Wrong! As you evolve, whether that is as a mentor or a mentee, the person you will want to work with will evolve too. Either you will outgrow your mentor, or you will change disciplines, making their experience less relevant to your current needs. If you are a mentor, you might find that you’ve reached the top range of what you can offer your mentee and it’s time that they move on to someone who can expand on that breadth of knowledge in a different direction. Either way, it’s absolutely normal and expected that you will have different mentors / mentees over time.
Further, you might have different mentors for different aspects of what you want to learn. No one can be all things to another person, nor does anyone have ALL the knowledge.
Myth #3 — The mentor chooses the mentee, not the other way around
The best person to decide what they need to know is the person who is looking for the knowledge. That is, the mentee. They are uniquely positioned in their own minds to understand what it is that they require to move forward. It’s therefore not only acceptable for a mentee to approach a mentor first, but it’s actually preferable. That mentee will be more engaged and more committed if they are the ones who have put down the stakes and asked for your help.
Myth #4 — Mentees will only leverage the relationship in order to get a better job
There are so many reasons that mentees and mentors choose to enter into a relationship with one another and finding the next great role is not high on that list. Yes, the point of being mentored is to further your skill set and grow, but the mentor benefits from this as well, often learning along with their mentee. It’s a dynamic that goes beyond a ‘lunch and learn’ scenario but one where both people can grow. It’s also not a short term, quick turnaround situation. Mentor / mentee relationships take time to develop and to show results that are satisfactory to both parties. It’s about exploration, not gain.
Myth #5 — Mentoring doesn’t help the mentor in any way
As mentioned in Myth #4, that’s false and if it is what’s occurring, then the pairing isn’t a true mentor / mentee relationship. Like all teachers, there are things to be learned from the process, from the interaction. We all grow and learn from working with others, even if that person is not yet at your level of expertise or experience. It’s definitely not a one-sided relationship. As a mentor, seeing the opportunity to learn is an important step. If you are just looking to pontificate and have a younger mentee genuflect at your feet, you’re not seeing the power of symbiotic learning that can happen when two people drop their guard and open their minds.
Myth #6 — Mentoring is teaching and the relationship should be viewed in that formal construct in order to see a return on investment
No. Mentoring is guiding. It’s helping a mentee to understand and see a path for themselves. It’s sharing knowledge and experience so that the mentee can develop their own understanding of how to apply that knowledge in their own work and career path. There return on investment is there but it’s not as directly measurable as you might find in a teaching or coaching environment. A mentor doesn’t teach a class in a specific area of knowledge, give a test and calculate the mentee’s understanding of the material. It’s not as formal as that, nor should it be. The point of mentoring is to help a mentee grow at their pace and within their needs.
Starting a mentoring program is not difficult but sometimes it’s made easier by the participation of a neutral third party with strong experience in building mentoring programs. From the initial consultation to the final implementation, bridge between can assist any company to connect potential to performance!
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