Exposing common myths about mentoring

January 22, 2015

Exposing common myths about mentoring

As a Business Mentor I have the joy of seeing mentoring as an industry being embraced in the past year. Mentoring as a way to move forward more effective is thought to be better understood, however a few myths continue to be persistent.

If you are looking to further your career, start and grow your business – read on!

Myth 1: Mentoring is a student-teacher relationship

Though mentors are more experienced in the field in which they mentor, they are not your teacher. Mentoring relies on a respectful peer relationship, where both parties are willing to learn from one another. The experience is not taught in a formal manner, it is woven into stories, sharing useful techniques. The onus is then on the mentee to take this learning and apply it (or not) the way he or she best sees fit.

Myth 2: Mentoring is like training or coaching

Nope. Training is designed to teach the trainee a specific skill in a limited time frame: a certain set of actions will result in X. Mentoring is informal, may happen over a cup of coffee and is long-term. What is important is to come to meetings with a plan, a question. Mentors are advisers on the sideline. You are in charge and decide if and how their feedback can be used to your benefit to avoid errors and grow more effective.

Myth 3: You can only have one mentor

Give yourself the opportunity to learn in many different fields, have a Kitchen Cabinet of Advisers! A Financial Controller will give you a different perspective than a CEO may. Yet, bot perspectives are valid and useful to give you a better grip of the situation at hand. You may receive conflicting advice in rare cases, and knowing how to take decisions will help you sort them out.

Myth 4: You only need a mentor in the beginning

I encourage many start-ups and young professionals to seek out mentors, however everyone can benefit from mentorship. Are you done with learning as soon as you are 2 years into your business? Of course not, your need has evolved to fit the stage of your career! Mentoring is dynamic and you can ask another profession to become your mentor.

Myth 5: Mentors must have at least 20 years of experience

This is a stuffy myth that doesn’t apply to present-day mentoring. A 25-year old can mentor you as easily as a mid-career professional in his forties or an executive who has just sold his business for X million dollars and retired at the age of 59. What matters, are their experience, their listening capabilities and your respect. What can they teach you from dealing with the real world?

A word of caution is in order here. Many expectations are not verbalized yet influence the mentoring relationship. Kathy Kram’s book from 1985 still holds true when highlighting mentees also look for acceptance, access to resources, confidence building, encouragement, opportunities to increase visibility, idea generation and friendship.

Image credit: by Katlene Nive, via flickr.com.


Lisette Andreyko

Lisette is the founder of Kaleidoscope and is passionate about start-up leadership, personal growth and women in business (and psst.. about tea!). She enjoys connecting with small businesses through her network. You can find her on LinkedIn.