• Fri, Nov 2 2012

5 Ways To Scare Away Your Career Mentor

Wherever you are in your career, seeking out a mentor is a great way to boost your career and expand your network. In fact, 75% of executives say mentoring plays a major role in their career — and 95% of Millennials just starting out their careers want a mentor. Through your mentor, you’ll likely meet new people, learn new skills, and maybe even find new job opportunities.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

Well having a mentor doesn’t guarantee automatic success. Being a mentee comes with responsibility and takes care to create a successful relationship. And it can go south fast if you’re not careful.

So make sure you aren’t scaring off your mentor and consider the following behaviors to avoid:

1. Being vague with your needs.

Be specific about what you need from your mentor. These needs could include professional development, access to opportunities and networks, desiring a role model, or even just a safe space to discuss experiences or career issues. Don’t expect your mentor to know or understand automatically just by reading your resume and meeting you. Otherwise, neither of you will gain anything from the relationship and you’ll likely just frustrate them.

2. Not taking advice seriously.

Remember, you’re not the only one in this relationship. So be kind and respectful of your mentor’s time and advice. You might not always like or agree with what they have to say, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong or trying to hurt you. Carefully consider their advice and be thankful for it. If you brush your mentor off too often, you likely won’t be getting any more help.

3. Calling or emailing too often or too little.

No mentor — or anyone, for that matter — likes someone who contacts them too much. On the other hand, don’t be passive in this relationship either. Your mentor is a working professional and may have his or her own family, so keep that in mind when trying to contact them. It’s helpful to establish communication guidelines at the beginning of the relationship so you know what’s too much (or too little).

4. Expecting help instead of asking for help.

You aren’t necessarily your mentor’s top priority, so be open and vocal when you really need guidance. Your mentor isn’t psychic and won’t always be checking in on you. So leave any feelings of entitlement at the door, or you will only scare your mentor away.

5. Misappropriating or sharing private information.

As previously mentioned, a mentorship is often meant to provide a safe space for conversation. But if you plan on divulging any company secrets or using your mentor’s business ideas as your own, think twice. Misappropriating or sharing private information is probably the single best way to scare off your mentor. If you had a discussion in confidence, keep it that way. You could not only ruin your relationship with your mentor, but also their entire network.

Take caution when moving forward with a career mentor. You have a lot to gain from the relationship. But if it goes south, you also have a lot to lose.

Have you ever had a poor experience with you career mentor?

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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  • Lastango

    Good list! Let me add five perils/errors from my own experience:
    ==========
    == Thinking what your mentor does is easy. If you’re new at whatever you’re doing, remember there is more going on than what you see or what your mentor can show you overtly.
    == Failing to recognize the politics and the need for relationships – even relationships with dysfunctional people. In organizations, getting things done takes more than just technical skill. If your mentor seems to be tolerating underperforming people or groups, be aware that there may be a reason — so don’t “go negative” if your mentor isn’t, or assume your mentor doesn’t know what’s wrong.
    == Whenever you can, make your mentor look good. Remember, it’s a two-way street: they help you, you help them as best you can. They have ambitions too.
    == Don’t get too personal. You may be touchy-feely, but your mentor may be all business when at work. They may not want to share their home life with you. Don’t take it as rejection — it’s just their style.
    == If you are the opposite sex, avoid meeting your mentor’s wife or husband if you can. If the spouse decides you’re a threat, your relationship with your mentor is over.
    ==========
    There are lots more, but that’s a starter-pak to help keep novices from shooting themselves in the foot.