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Networking

This Is Why You Don’t Have a Mentor

Finding a mentor doesn't have an endgame. It's an ongoing process that requires checking your ego at the door.


There is an old Zen kōan about an aspiring swordsman who approaches a master.
“How long would it take me to become great under you?” he asks.

“10 years,” the master swordsman replies.

“I don’t have that long,” says the student. “I want to be good soon. What if I worked very hard and dedicated myself completely to the task?”

“Ok, 30 years,” he says back.

“But that’s even longer,” the student says with some perplexity. “I am telling you I am in a hurry.”

And so the master replies, “Precisely, students in a hurry end up taking even longer to learn what is right in front of them.”

Students have been missing the point when it comes to mentorship for centuries. I include myself in that category of misguided young people. A couple less forgiving mentors, a couple situations breaking a different way, and I would have ended up blowing my first opportunities. Regardless, almost every day I get a handful of emails from young people desperate for advice on the topic of mentorship.

They all tend to have the same three misperceptions about how this whole thing is supposed to work. So if you’re looking to find, keep, or form a mentorship, here’s what you have to do right:

1. Mentorship is something you do, not something you get.

In other words, like all relationships, it is a process, not an accomplishment. A mentorship is a flexible and often informal relationship that can vary from person to person and field to field—you might be able to refer to yourself as an apprentice after the fact (I do) but it looks nowhere near as official as that while it is happening.

While you are looking for a mentorship, never actually use the word. Don’t ask anyone to be your mentor, don’t talk about mentorships. No one goes out and asks someone they’re attracted to be their boyfriend or girlfriend—that’s a label that’s eventually applied to something that develops over time. A mentorship is the same way; it’s a dance, not a contractual agreement. 

Mentorship, like all relationships, is a process, not an accomplishment. 

2. Give as much as you get.

To quote Sheryl Sandberg: “We need to stop telling [young people], ‘Get a mentor and you will excel,’ Instead we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’” Successful busy people rarely take on substantial commitments pro-bono. They are picking you because they think you’re worth their time and will benefit them too.

So figure out what you can offer them so that this can become a mutual, though lopsided, exchange. Executives, entrepreneurs, and creatives are always looking for the next big thing. They want to help you succeed because along the way you can help them. Even if it’s just energy you’re bringing, even if it’s just thanks and satisfaction. The mentor cannot want your success for you more than you want it for yourself. You better show up every day hungry and dedicated and eager to learn.

One suggestion that’s helped me: provide articles, links, or news that can benefit your mentors. You are less busy than they are, so your time is better spent looking and searching. Also by having other mentorships and pursuing my own interests on the side, I was able to be a source of new information, trends, and opportunities. I asked a lot, but I tried to give in return. 

3. Keep your problems at home.

I often write that passion can be a form of insanity and dysfunction because it makes people selfish and emotional. Not surprisingly, a lot of young people get upset when they read this. And it is these very kids that I wouldn’t want to work with. They’re likely too sensitive to feedback, too wound up to really listen to instructions, and too stuck in their ways to learn.

Typical youthful insanity is sending 3000-word emails at 2 a.m. It’s getting embarrassingly drunk at an event because you’re nervous. It’s hiding a mistake you made because you’re scared. It’s quitting because you’ve fallen behind or don’t feel encouraged. It’s arguing with feedback and thinking you know better, thinking that you’re special. Those weak emotions are luxurious. If you want to indulge them, then you’ve got no right to a busy person’s time.

Your personal life is irrelevant. Your excuses aren’t going to fly. If you get asked to do something, do it the way it was asked. If that means staying up all night to do it, then ok (but that’s to stay your little secret). No one cares what’s going on with you, or at least, they shouldn’t have to.

Your personal life is irrelevant.

***

If you can step back and see this as something other than a transaction—that you don’t get a mentor, you develop one. If you can contribute thanklessly and make yourself indispensable, you will cease to be an obligation and instead something the mentor works on out of self-interest. If you can work hard to be well-adjusted and dependable—you’re less likely to blow up and ruin the whole opportunity.

For sure, a lot more goes into becoming a master and to getting the most out of a mentorship, but these are the rocks I tend to see people crash on the most often. Myself, I could have easily sunk on all of them. I almost did plenty of times. But it didn’t have to be that way and it doesn’t need to be for you.

How about you?

How have you successfully found a mentor?

Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Ego Is The Enemy and three other books. His monthly reading recommendations which go out to 50,000+ subscribers are found here.

Comments (2)
  • http://www.aMemoryJog.com Steve Miller

    Great article, Ryan. Your personal life is irrelevant. Your personal life is irrelevant. Love it!
    Steve – http://www.amemoryjog.com

  • Emily Fischer

    Another good reason why you don’t have a mentor: you’re a woman. Or a minority. Or someone from a lower socio-economic background. Simply put, wise old mentors (at least in my field) are almost always white men who won’t trouble themselves with a young initiate that has “nothing to offer them”… I’m speaking from personal experience here, and I can fill an evening with cringe-inducing stories of failed mentor relationships (read Rebekah Campbell’s op-ed on female entrepreneurship in the NYT). I think it’s everyone’s professional responsibility to help those embarking on their careers: to help even when there’s nothing in it for you, even it’s inconvenient. Because what else are you going to do??Mentoring people you believe in just feels good.

    • Leonella Rodríguez Dotti

      Though I agree with you,for I’m part of every minority you can think of (well, not every minority, but kinda: I’m Venezuelan, a woman, I’m not an english-speaking person and I’m definitely not white hahahahahaha), I also think that there are other things that are important about being an apprentice and I strongly believe that it’s really important to pick out better mentors. And a good mentor to me is someone who doesn’t really mind about your race, gender, creed or whatever reason makes you a minority. Of course, I’m aware that in the USA the social dynamics are different than in other places.

      My point is that the mentor should be worthy too. I mean, if these “white men” are not willing to give any advice or mentor someone, because of his or her inherent background, maybe they are not that “wise” to be mentors after all, aren’t they?

      Not just because someone is successful in a bussines (or a field or whatever) it makes them a great mentor… or a mentor, at all

      • neil

        if I can help at all…drop me a line…🙂

    • neil

      if I can help at all…drop me a line🙂 …..

      • PrepaidVisa

        …And when they do want to make time to bother with you, you run the risk that they are creepy as hell and probably going to bust out some sexual harassment eventually.

        Case in point.

        If you’re a woman and you work with/for straight men and you have never had at LEAST one boss or colleague or potential “collaborator” or “mentor” hit on you… my god, you unicorn, share your secret!

        I have learned to sniff out the creepers from the chaff, but when I was 19-22… well, there’s a reason I learned the skill: trial by fire.

      • neil

        I am not sure what you are suggesting here.

        Perhaps your expectation of all male mentors will sexually harass you eventually….could potentially make any genuine mentor a little hesitant…

  • D.

    I agree with everything except – “Your personal life doesn’t matter” part. Of course you shouldn’t make excuses, but if you feel like you are not appreciated or that you are taken advantage of (and I guess emotions are a part of personal life), you should step up, and if that doesn’t work – quit and find something else. Not all mentors are as amazing and actually busy and professional as you describe them in this text.

    • john s

      I think the personal life part was meant more to the people who are continually using that as an excuse to not move forward. I like his comments but I feel that a “mentor” is overrated by the people that are trying to make money off of it. Being a mentor is the first step to becoming a life coach and writing books. If you hang with like minded people in the field you want you will succeed but only if you give it the effort it requires. That is true of criminals and the successful.

  • http://pucknkhaosblog.com Gigi Rodgers

    I found my mentor via LinkedIn when I asked the question, “Where have all the Polymaths gone”? Being a Renaissance Woman, or Polymath, is a lifetime goal. I was researching it and, just out of curiosity and to start a conversation, posted it on LinkedIn. A few people responded, but my mentor (who till this day I have never met) and I connected in a great conversational manner and we have kept in touch now for 3+ years.
    This man has guided me through the trenches of my own pits of despair and has helped me get focused and produce results.
    He’s not famous, doesn’t have a website or blog where he’s peddling anything, he’s not even in the United States. He’s a dad with two kids and a wife who gets it, and gives extraordinary advice that I will always be very thankful for and thankful to have connected with.

    • PrepaidVisa

      One of my mentors is a woman who I know through an online discussion forum related to my profession. 14 years ago, before social media and social networks were a common and accepted “Thing,” we were two of the only identifiable women on a professional discussion forum for a male-dominated field. She’s amazing.. she let me stay at her house when I had a cross country trip (the only time I met her in person). She’s really smart, level headed, outspoken about social justice, damn good at what she does, and balances her work with her family. Through her online presence has influenced many through her support.

  • http://www.owenmarcus.com Owen Marcus

    Yes, what are you more committed to– having someone hold your hand or someone walking beside you?

    • Jessicka Chamberlin

      Why do we have to choose? Why not both?

  • http://www.skyboxcreative.com/ Angelina Sereno

    Good read!

    My mentor started out as a client (I was designing a logo for his business). He was much more successful than I was so I would always ask him a ton of questions.. He gave me so much valuable information that I would grab a notebook and start writing. He sensed my eagerness and commitment to grow so he continued to guide me for the next 10 years. He motivated me to start my business 9 years ago (http://www.skyboxcreative.com) and helped guide nearly every major decision of my life.

    He just passed away this summer at the young age of 45. He drowned while on vacation with his family. One of the saddest events of my life.

    I’m heading into a new chapter of my life, considering an entirely new business model and feeling like I could use the guidance of a mentor again.

    Happy to stumble upon this article to get my brain going again… I never looked for a mentor but maybe this time I should actively seek one? Or maybe one will just show up? Funny how things happen like that sometimes.

    Like you said, it’s all about getting value from both sides. I’ll keep that in mind🙂

    Thanks again!

    • PrepaidVisa

      That is really sad about your mentor. I am sure you will honor his memory by paying forward the support he provided for you. Sorry to hear about him.

      • http://www.skyboxcreative.com/ Angelina Sereno

        Thank you so much. He was a good man and I will surely pay it forward… I’m blessed to have known him.

  • Jessicka Chamberlin

    I agree with most of this, except for your personal life being irrelevant. Perhaps in 1965 during the Mad Men era this may have been true, but not anymore. The new currencies are transparency, vulnerability and context. And in this new world, what is most personal about you, is what can get you where you desire to go in the most effective and efficient manner possible. As one of my most highly respected mentors told me earlier this year: “It’s all about attachment.”

    What he meant by that is that it’s not about disengaging, it’s all about engaging. He told me this as direct advice in response to me telling him that my mother had advanced breast cancer. While she was dying, I put everything in my life aside, my business, my clients, my friends, and I stayed with her until the moment she passed, uncluding staying up all night to be with her night after night. It cost me physically, emotionally and financially to do so and it has taken me quite a while to climb out of it, but I have zero regrets. I attached to her and to my family and in the long run, has earned me so much long-term respect with my clients and community that whatever deficit it created for me is temporary.

    I get that this “never let them see you sweat” thing has run the economy for a very long time, and it is not the future. It is not sustainable. It is not human. And it is not humane. It is one of the very reasons why we run our economy, our families, our bodies and our planet into the ground.

    Think about it: If you needed someone to be by your side, a faithful business partner who would be with you through thick and thin, who would you rather have by your side, someone who stays up all night to follow the rules, or someone who stays up all night taking care of the people they love the most, and figures out how to get the job done in a more fun and playful way in the long run.

    What I’m saying is that there are truly very few real emergencies in life and this false sense of urgency most of us have is a mask that covers up these soft places in ourselves, that delicate voice that says, “Look here, I have the answer.” And it is that place within ourselves that shows us things that no mentor could ever teach.

    The reason why Mr. Myagi was so successful is because he set up his mentee to touch that part of himself, and when he finally did, he realized he not only realized his true strength, he found who he truly was. THIS is the authenticity that everyone talks about. It lies at the intersection of that which we love and loathe about ourselves. Without embracing both parts, we do not become all that we can be. As cheesy and cliche as this sounds, I’ve never discoverd anything that is more true.

    With all of this said, there is still the issue about what to do with this personal passion stuff. It is messy. It can get in the way. It feels like a nuisance. Luckily we live in a world that has new ways of dealing with personal detrious to take it from being a problem to an opportunity: what is ugly about us is an asset. This takes practice, time, energry and commitment. And in this new world, it is the smartest, most producive investment of human capital. Come home to who you truly are and you will be ahead of 99.9% of the rest of the planet and everything else in your life will begin to feel easy, even staying up all night to nurse your mother or pound out that passion project. Not because somebody said so, but just because you can.

    • Ryan Cole

      This comment is as good as the article! It’s even readable as a male versus female take on this topic. I think both are equally valid approaches to a highly variable point. I agree Jessicka that a more human approach is required to the life work balance.

      • Jessicka Chamberlin

        Thank you Ryan! You are correct this can be a male vs female dynamic. For three years, I have been steadily working towards creating a productivity dynamic that integrates both approaches through real collaborative partnership: your parts + my parts are perfect and together, they are greater than the sum. Again, cliche, and true. This summer, the various pieces of the model began falling into place and I’m just putting the finishing touches on the basic working model. So far the feedback has been stellar.

        Through responding to this blog post I have realized one thing: besides my mother (who had a much more masculine model at work and more feminine again home) the vast majority of my mentors have been male.

        I also didn’t answer Ryan’s original question: How I found my mentors.

        Thanks again!

      • PrepaidVisa

        That’s a way of thinking about it, but I’ve had multiple male bosses who share this approach. It’s not exclusive or “more natural” to women at all.

    • PrepaidVisa

      100% agree with this.

      As an employer/supervisor, I would trust you MORE because you stepped up and took responsibility to care for your family member. To me, it shows that you have good priorities. I would trust you to make decisions on the behalf of the company as a whole, to be thinking about the future and what our work MEANS, which creates value.

      For one – I’m from a non-US culture where family values and caring for elders is highly valued in our society. People like me, shockingly enough, are finding higher positions in the workplace nowadays. This sort of thing does not go unnoticed.

      Secondly – I have had health problems myself in the past. I was able to get through them partially due to the grace and support of my employers at the time, who worked out a deal with me where i could work from home. When I became sick enough to cut back my hours even more, they kept me on retainer for about $500 a month: the cost of keeping me on COBRA, so basically I was able to have health insurance for free 10 years ago before there was such a thing as Obamacare or a ban on refusing people for pre-existing conditions. I got better. Went to grad school. Now I hire that company as a vendor to produce major jobs for me in my current role. Because I know i can trust them and I want to give money to good people.

      Thirdly – If someone takes time off to give birth or care for cancer grandma, that’s a life thing that workplaces NEED to have contingency plans for, otherwise they just have bad business plans, period.

      Fourth – What does it mean when an employee is a traditionally “bad performer?” If someone is constantly 45 min late to work because they are constantly partying and staying up late, I’m going to ask myself a few things. One, what’s the nature of it? I work in a city and in a field where arts and socializing are integral, where half the business gets done at parties. Is there a chance my 22 year old intern is meeting people in their nightlife that can be great contacts for us? Maybe I should count their party energy as hours worked on our behalf for marketing and audience/donor recruitment! They are making us seem cool. Cool. Maybe we have a talk about how they can photograph and write it up for our blog, maybe I put them on reaching out to people who can co-produce public events with us so the intern can party while schmoozing donors on OUR behalf.

      • Jessicka Chamberlin

        Thank you! Really means a lot to receive your words. Thank you especially for understanding what actually creates value. And you are correct, people who understand the relationship of people, meaning, and value will have more and more of a significant role in society. This level of discernment is an art. Happy you are now healthy and healed.

  • http://kates-resume-writers-reviews.weebly.com/ Katie Rowe

    I’ve often wondered over the years about finding a mentor…but where do you find one? Is there an app for it…do you just approach people?
    I have turned to friends and former colleagues for advice, but I’ve never had a ‘go to’ mentor. When I was setting up my online businesses http://kates-resume-writers-reviews.weebly.com/, it was basically a self taught process.

  • Nate Wells

    Hello all, I read Ryan as saying, “your personal drama is irrelevant.” If this is what you were saying Ryan, I agree. However, the person’s “story” is very relavant. This speaks to what Jessicka Chamberlin states.
    In my opinion it is the individual who strives to overcome obsticals of their past and current life that gravitate true mentors into their lives. Most successful people who are white and/or of color feel most successfull when they help self-driven others succeed. The key is being self-driven without personal drama.

    • Jessicka Chamberlin

      Actually Nate, both are revelant in this new world. In Steve Jobs famous commencement speech he talks about how we “connect the dots going backwards” and he speaks about all of the formative experiences that allowed him to formulate his worldview and the unique value proposition for Apple. Steve is unique in that he was able to see the value in his life as a whole and how it helped him become the man he became. Most of us are much more comfortable judging, resisting, and in many ways trying to bury our past, rather than seeing it as perfect, loving ourselves as who we were, are, and can be. It is that radical love that helps is change in a sustainable human and humane way and help others with more ease. Service through celebration rather than the outdated model of service through sacrifice.

      You cannot have a compelling “personal story” without “personal drama”. This is why you hear every single successful person talk about how it was their failures that boosted their success, not their successes themselves. More accurately, it was both. All success requires both friction and flow.

      When we dive into our personal drama, that scary stuff that we think is not valuable, we can find the most valuable gold we never knew existed.

      And you are absolutely correct, Nate, this is can be an even more powerful endeavor for a minority, or frankly anyone maligned by main stream society. Many many people have made great success for themselves by “flipping the script”, simply telling their story and the stories of others and forever changing the main stream dialogue. The list is very long and I have my favorites: Tonight Morrison, Jay Z, Red Man, Bell Hooks, Oprah.

      However, my favorite by long shot is James Baldwin. Although my personal story did not directly intersect with his, I consider him to be my most important intellectual, emotional mentor. He spoke and lived a life of love with complete abandon. His voice was clear and resonate. He spoke truth and love to lies and hate in a way that America heard more readily than current mainstream memory recalls. AND he hid no part of himself. He said three main things that have resonated with me my whole adult life:

      When asked why he wrote Giovanni’s room, essential a book, about being blackens gay in the 50’s,

  • Kirien Sangha

    The first thing I did was find people who were doing really exciting things. Then I checked out their work, read their books, saw which articles they contributed to, and watched their interviews on YouTube. I reached out to people who I genuinely wanted to connect with.

    In my first email I would say something about what they said and how it resonated with me, then I offered a link to something relating to what they discussed.

    After a few emails I would ask them a question, then I’d ALWAYS get back to them with how I put their advice into action and what results I achieved.

    When I do this, very often they send an email back expressing their thanks for keeping them in the loop.

    A great peice of advice about finding mentors that I heard was: “It’s about offering value.” You have to be genuine and want to form authentic relationships with people. If you’re really stuck and don’t know where to go, James Swanwick also had good information on his website.

  • Jessicka Chamberlin

    You can ask for what you want from someone plainly and simply without obsessing, without having it be complicated. I found my mentors by simply asking them to mentor me. They saw my sharp intellect and knew that whatever the offered would be put to good use. And that I am devoted and caring and I would return it in such a way that was powerful and meaningful to them. I didn’t have to sell them or jump through hoops to prove myself. Simply telling them my own personal story was enough for them to realize I had what it took, that I could handle pretty much anything.

  • Aleenum

    So you dropped out of college , are we supposed to be impressed by this? We don’t have and never will have the data of how successful you’d have been if you finished college.

    • Ramone

      Depends how you define “success” doesn’t it?

    • Young Grasshopper

      In my experience, college isn’t as valuable as it once was. It didn’t teach me anything of real value that I couldn’t have learned on my own. My most valuable education came from real world experience. School is just a bunch of politics. A lot of very successful people didn’t finish. More power to you if you are able to prove yourself and become successful without incurring a mountain of debt in student loans.

  • SL30

    great article!

  • http://codevelab.com/ Andy Cini

    Working as a mentor I found this article spot on, except for the part about keeping your personal life for yourself – it is a relationship after all…

  • PrepaidVisa

    Who approaches potential mentors in bars randomly without knowing them? We have a societal protocol for that when it comes to hooking up and dating, but not when it comes to developing sustained mentorship. Strange choice of analogy.

    But..

    I appreciate it when a guy in a bar approaches me and greets me in a polite way, like “Hey, noticed you’re reading Book. Cool book. What’s your name? I’m ___.”

    It’s great when he reads nonverbal cues – do I seem interested in talking or am I glaring like Fuck Off?

    And if I seem interested and we chat for a while, at the end of the interaction, I appreciate it when he is direct in saying “Prepaid Visa, I think you’re great and I’d like to take you out for dinner/drink/whatever date activity makes sense.” If I’m interested because I want a date, I’ll accept. If I’m interested because he seems cool but I don’t want a date, I’ll clarify that I’m unavailable for date-like meetups but would love friend or professional continuing hangs.

    I don’t like it when guys are aggressive.
    I don’t like it when they demand more than they are entitled to right away, be it for sex or even just my attention.
    I certainly don’t like approaches that require belittling.
    Above all else, I hate it when someone in this situation suggests that he wants to hire me or collaborate with me, and then the next time we meet up to discuss it, it turns out he thinks it’s a date.
    What I do like is: directness + humility + appropriate respect for boundaries.

    And yes, I think this would roughly apply to approaching a mentor as well as going around a bar.

  • PrepaidVisa

    Anyone that I am going to form a long-term relationship with, whether I’m mentoring them or working with them or they’re a friend, I want them to have enough security and trust in me to be open about things.

    Maybe I don’t need to know that they got ragingly drunk last night, or that they have bacterial vaginosis when “I need to go to a doctor’s appointment today” would suffice.

    But if a colleague or someone I supervise has a major health issue, or they’re having a debilitating emotional and circumstantial issue like divorce, breakup, being sexually assaulted or robbed, a family member in prison, etc. my goal is to create an environment where colleagues’ stress and suffering are not compounded by feeling they need to hide it. With a clear picture of the circumstances, I am empowered to work with them to sort out their workload to make sure they are able to contribute what they can, to adjust the action plan, and possibly shift priorities/duties around to make sure everything gets done.

    Last year, I had an intern who one day approached me as I was grabbing coffee as he was really upset.

    He was an international on visa and recent college grad who didn’t know anyone in our city. We had multiple interns at one point, but the other two had gone home for the holidays. This one intern was staying in the USA for Christmas, the only people he’d been socializing with were the other interns, and he had just been dumped by his girlfriend back home. Lastly, his stipend did not cover his expenses and he was freaking out about how to complete the last month of his internship since he wasn’t able to pick up side work with his particular visa, and was thinking about leaving the internship 2 weeks before his intended departure date but was afraid of losing our recommendation.

    Dude was super distraught, and as he was spilling all of this, he also said he was scared to tell me because his family had told him that “You NEVER tell anything personal to an American because they’ll fire you right away and never give you a recommendation.” But he just had to tell us because he was completely unable to get anything done and was having a panic.

    Mostly, I was taken aback that given the environment we strove to create in our office, he would still be terrified to tell myself and our boss. Anyway – I basically sat him down and told him I understood, that those were all really stressful things. I told him it was normal to feel upset about all of that, I’d be stressed and sad too, and it wasn’t weak. Told him to take the afternoon off and clear his head out, and then invited him to my Christmas dinner.

    Well after that – dude came in the next day. He was incredibly grateful as to how we treated him. He came to my Christmas dinner a few days later and everyone loved him. He worked like a boss for the remainder of his internship – as he’d done when the others were there and he was more chipper.

    Sure, we COULD have come down hard on the guy and told him he could have budgeted, or been more outgoing, or simply asked for a personal or sick day instead of having a meltdown. Instead we acted like normal ass people who were raised properly. The outcome is that we got: intern who’s even more hardworking and loyal, with a weight lifted off his shoulders. We got everything done we needed to get done 2 weeks in advance of our deadline when he returned home early, so my boss and I really had some time to fine tune and produce even better supplemental content and graphics.

    And I got something personally out of it too. I recently went through a round of interviews for jobs that will really accelerate my career – going from associate to director positions, basically. And when I was asked on every interview,”Describe your management style and how you get results,” or “Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation/conflict/problem at your job,” or “Tell me about a time you turned a bad situation into a positive result,” I had this example to use as a solid answer. An answer that shows me to have good people skills combined with a get-shit-done-under-duress mentality and that compliments my current boss/employer rather than undermining them. Plus I now have someone who will write me a glowing recommendation when one from the position of someone I have supervised – I was asked for that and could deliver it.

    • Jessicka Chamberlin

      Great illustration! Thanks for sharing.

    • Carmela Ward

      Yes, I agree with all the above as in comparison to the article. Your situation was your intern was extreme, however if you or your organisation were not in the position to help. How would you graded him on his recommendation? Not able to complete and therefore not reliable or based on what was completed? Could have back fired on that person completely. Also would you have been that sympathetic to someone who lived in the USA?
      As someone who has worked for a long time in another industry and trying to break into a new one the difficulty is that I have so much life experience that someone I may look for advice for in my new chosen field can see me as a threat and not as a student ready willing and able.

  • Jenn

    Love the first two points… the last one I’d have to respectfully disagree with. My best relationships with mentors and managers have involved each of us knowing about each other’s personal lives and struggles. I find it important to know what is driving someone to fail or succeed. Your personal life and professional life are not mutually exclusive… they do both involve YOU🙂

  • Dave Lopez

    Great article. I have found this to be very true, “A mentorship is a flexible and often informal relationship”.

  • another diamond in the rough

    Showing up “hungry and dedicated”, while being “thankless and indispensable” allows for others to take advantage of you, and they will. If you continue to succeeded but find your self not getting back what you have put in, then you have succeeded in being mentored. The fact that you are working hard is all you need, no one can give you want you want. You must create it. Mentorships are over rated and just another way for “Entrepreneurs” to take advantage of young hardworking (misdirected) individuals. Not addressing the mentor-ship is like working without negotiating your pay and if your “mentor” is not willing to discuss it then beware because the rest of their business is most likely the same way, cheap, faulty and dirty. You’ve got to stand up for your self, create principle based of your ethos not theirs.

    • Casey

      You’re assuming that people can’t recognize when they’re being taken advantage of. I believe he’s speaking to people who are a little less naïve.

  • Dante

    Understand your point, but a poor example and fundamentally disagree. Mentorship is not some random piss drunk affair at a bar. It’s a sustained and nurtured relationship – something to be asked when you’ve developed a rapport with the future mentor. (Maybe by that time, the mentor might have brought you under her wing.) I completely agree with Nodoubtfan, you won’t know unless you ask.

  • Kym Zwick

    9 times out of 10, your mentors start as your equals…. By just having friends, and not labeling them as “mentors”, you learn as they learn, they learn as you learn, you all learn together, and through that they become mentors….

  • Christina Lopez

    Very true

  • Christina Lopez

    Yeah i was alittle confused here…but i think its like finding a creative way to build that type of relationship

  • Brent Rivers

    the key word here is “relationship”. many relationships fail as a result of imbalance. None are always in perfect balance, however it should show some equilibrium at various times. Mentoring and being a mentee are no different. If the mentor is a taker, never a giver, eventually the mentee feels lacking. And vice versa. I believe for any relationship to have success, open communication is necessary to know what the expectations are. If being mentored, I communicate my goals, and what i’d like from the relationship. If mentoring, I’d communicate what I feel is important to impart, and what the expectations are in return. AND, the rewards. too many business relationships that ARE mentorships end up taking advantage of young talent as a means of profiteering, nothing more. If you’ve worked for most publicly held or large private corporations, you’ve been taken advantage of whether you think so or not.

  • Brent Rivers

    why do you think there are so many single people “looking” for a mate…unclear goals and unwillingness to be open and honest. Why do you think the “dating” websites and apps are so successful…they spell out what people want. DTF? get on tinder. Want a lasting relationship, eharmony. Want to take advantage of someone looking for a lasting relationship? again, eharmony. etc. etc. etc.

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