I remember when I was first told I was going to be someone’s mentor. I thought to myself, “How can I be a mentor to someone when I’m so early on in my own career?”  I also wondered how other people with more experience would respond to hearing I was THEIR mentor. However, I soon realized that being a mentor didn’t have anything to do with age or the amount of experience one has.  Instead, it’s about being there for someone when they need advice, guidance, or support.  Everyone has something he/she can bring to the table. 

In the past few years I’ve grown curious about whether other people had similar mentoring misconceptions.  I began reviewing prominent articles on mentoring and came across an article from the Harvard Business Review that discussed common myths about mentorship.  I found the article very interesting, and very applicable in education. I have highlighted the key myths from the article below. 


Myths about mentoring: Posted on Harvard Business Review: February 1, 2011

Myth #1: You have to find one perfect mentor

            Many people think a mentor is one person you turn to for advise.  In reality, you may seek out many people for advice. You are more likely going to benefit from having multiple advisors to give you input.  This helps give multiple perspectives on topics, which allows you to see more of the whole picture.

Myth #2: Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship

            Because things are constantly changing and people change jobs more often today, it is unrealistic to have a long-term mentoring relationship.  Rather than thinking of mentorship as something long-term, you should think of it as something you acquire when you need it. A mentor is someone who you go to when you have questions, not only when there is something big going on in your career. However, you should still build relationships.  Advice is going to be more relevant when it comes from someone you trust and who knows you well. 

Myth #3: Mentoring is for junior people

            It is very common to think that you only need a mentor when you’re starting out in your career.  However, people from every stage in his/her career benefit from having someone (or multiple people) to go to for guidance.  Whether you are adding responsibilities to your job, changing positions, or thinking about leaving, seeking advice and guidance from a mentor can be very beneficial.  

Myth #4: Mentoring is something more experienced people do out of the goodness of their hearts

            Mentoring should be useful to every person involved.  Before seeking out a mentor (or mentees) ask yourself what you can bring to the table.  Make sure you present your prospective to your mentor and make it very clear that you are bringing valuable resources to the table as well.  Even if your resources aren’t needed at the present time, a promise for future help is very valuable. 

These myths help structure the viewpoint of what a mentor truly is. Everyone can be a mentor to someone, regardless if they are in the 10th year of their career or in the first. We all have valuable insights that can be beneficial to others; we just need to have the confidence to share them when the opportunity arises, and not be afraid to seek collaboration and feedback in the workplace.  Once we get rid of any preconceived notions of what a mentor should be, we start to realize that we can all be a mentor, and that can be a very powerful thing. 

Samantha Lingeman
Indianapolis, IN    

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