Peer Mentor Network

Monday, May 08, 2006

Of Proteges and Pitfalls

Check out this Fast Company Article on mentoring.

Ah, mentoring. No one disputes its value, but its pitfalls are legion. Since the 1970s, studies have repeatedly demonstrated that mentoring is the single most valuable ingredient in a successful career for both men and women. So now everybody wants a mentor. But mentors aren't fairy godmothers; they can't and shouldn't be expected to make all your dreams come true.

Also, if your company makes it particularly difficult to find mentors in-house, be sure to check out the sidebar on open-source mentoring. Thanks for the link Brooke!


  • This is a great article. I thought it interesting that Alice was "in striking distance" of her mentor's job. Shouldn't she have chosen a mentor with more seniority so that she wouldn't be trying to take his job? How much more senior are your mentors? It would take me at least 10 years to come even close to my mentor’s level.

    Another thing is how much time do you think is appropriate to spend with a skill mentor? I spend about 5 hours a week with mine going over projects I'm working on and general concepts. A colleague that started at the same time I did is spending 3 times that much with her mentor. That sounds like too much hand holding to me. What have you found to be a good amount of time?

    By Blogger Dan, at Thursday, May 11, 2006  

  • Excellent questions Dan. My mentors are also quite a few levels over my head. They may retire by the time I get close to their positions.

    Skill mentors can be incredibly informal so you may be spending a lot more than 5 hours per week in that area without realizing it. If you are working on new assignments, you have more to learn and will be spending more time working with skill mentors. If you've been in the same position for years, chances are you're learning curve has flattened out.

    This is the beauty of rotational assignments; you're constantly learning new skills, improving your breadth of knowledge. Staying in one spot longer will help you develop your depth of knowledge. Breadth and depth both have advantages and disadvantages, but you're strategy needs to be consistent with your development plan.

    I know that was a pretty vague answer, but I honestly feel that it is situational. I'm in a rotational program like Dan and I rotated to my current job in January. Being the least experienced person on the team means I spend a lot of time building skills and learning. If I had to quantify it, I would say between 10 and 15 hours per week.

    Hand holding can be okay, but some people learn better by making mistakes on their own first. If you're comfortable with learning through your failures (which you should be) then less hand holding is completely acceptable.

    By Blogger hops, at Thursday, May 11, 2006  

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