You can certainly be successful in your career without mentors, but they can bring a richness and perspective to your life beyond measure.
For those of you who still have some reservations about the idea of using mentors, maybe debunking a few mentoring myths will get you more excited about asking others to help you advance in your career.
I sat down with Seattleite Susan Canfield to discuss three age-old mentoring myths and to look at how mentoring has evolved. Susan is the director of the Michael G. Foster School of Business MBA Mentor Program at the University of Washington and author of the book Mentoring Moments: Inspiring Stories from Eight Business Leaders and MBAs.
Myth #1: You need only one career mentor.
Susan: The old model assumed you needed only one mentor to guide you throughout your career. When people stayed with one company for many years, this model of mentoring was effective.
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But while one good mentor is certainly better than none, more frequent career moves have brought a new view of mentoring: We benefit most from a network of mentors with a rich mix of expertise and experience.
Myth #2: You are either a mentor or a mentee — you teach or you learn.
Susan: Although it’s not necessarily viewed this way, mentoring has always been a reciprocal arrangement in which both the mentor and mentee learn and benefit from the relationship.
While mentee benefits may be more obvious, mentors gain as well. Mentors have the opportunity — indeed, the privilege — of reflecting on pivotal career moments, testing their long-held assumptions and participating in another person’s professional and personal growth.
Myth #3: Mentors should structure and drive the relationship.
Susan: While mentors have a role in structuring a formal mentoring relationship based on their availability and what they want to offer, mentees are responsible for driving the relationship and making clear from the outset what they want to learn from the mentor.
The relationship is best served by mentors regularly asking for feedback (“Is this helpful to you?”) and mentees regularly asking for what they want (“Would you tell me more about your biggest career challenges and how you overcame them?”).
Lisa: Any final advice on mentoring?
Susan: We all have opportunities to mentor and be mentored throughout our lives. Mentors learn as much as they teach. If we are actively engaged and eager to learn, mentors are often available just for the asking. You can certainly be successful in your career without mentors, but they can bring a richness and perspective to your life beyond measure.