Although National Mentoring Month has passed, conversation about the role of mentors is still very much top of mind this February. Not only did Allison Jones and Rosetta Thurman host an online chat (hashtag: #ynpnchat) about how young nonprofit professionals can successfully acquire mentors, but the Harvard Business Review Best Practices blog discussed “Demystifying Mentoring”, an article which outlines some common misperceptions associated with mentoring and offers some solid advice to those seeking some form of mentorship.
Within the discussion at the #ynpnchat with Rosetta and Allison, folks talked about how mentors are those people who always look out for your best interest, who serve as a sounding board when needed, and who invest in you and your future. Chat participants reported having multiple mentors, with each relationship having its own structure and format. Nonetheless, there was a clear recognition that maintaining mentoring relationships required some effort; however, it was clear the group felt the benefits of mentoring were well worth this effort.
This conversation dovetailed nicely with the “Demystifying Mentoring” article, which lifted up these four big myths of mentoring:
- “You have to find one perfect mentor” – People have different strengths and abilities, and so it makes sense that you would rely upon a multitude of people when seeking guidance and advice. Get out of the habit of thinking of your mentor as one individual, and begin to develop relationships with a variety of individuals who will be equipped to meet all of your different needs over time.
- “Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship” – There is no minimum time commitment over a period of months years that qualifies a person as your mentor. Rather, you can define your relationship in a way that works best for you.
- “Mentoring is for junior people” – Regardless of where you are in your career, you can benefit from having a mentor. I would actually take this a step further, and note that mentoring does not necessarily necessitate an older person providing guidance to a younger or less-experienced person. I believe mentoring can occur among peers, as well as from younger to older. After all, we all bring our own unique perspectives to the table, and each has a special value!
- “Mentoring is something experienced people do out of the goodness of their hearts” – Mentoring needs to have direct benefits for both parties. As a mentee, you need to make sure that you are fulfilling your end of the bargain, whatever that may be.
So in light of both of these discussions, here are my suggestions to you:
Given your own experiences with mentoring, what would you add?