The 3 Stages of Mentorship

Photo cred: Chewy Chua

Already three months into the job, the new PR professional sat at her desk uncomfortable and lost. She wanted to ask her manager how to do it, but that would make her look stupid. Putting it off would only make it worse.  She knew, if she was going to finish this project, she was going to need some help…but from who?

Mentors continue to be one of the most valuable resources in my career.

Graduating and being thrown into the crazy startup world 2 weeks later, I may have skipped a few steps.  The lessons learned in an entry level job provide young professionals with the basics, and allow them to learn from the systems that their managers have developed over the years.  I never got those lessons.

That’s why I am so grateful for my mentors, and why I have so many!  But not all of my mentors are at the same level.

Depending on who you ask, a mentor can be a lot of different things.  I have 3 different levels of mentors.

Stage 1: Passive Mentor

  • I can ask them questions once in a while.
  • I’ll always get a response but it may not be prompt.
  • It’s possible that they have no idea I consider them to be a mentor.
  • They want to help, but aren’t necessarily concerned about my career.

Stage 2: Committed Mentor

  • I can ask questions whenever I want and will usually get a prompt response.
  • I feel comfortable asking for an introduction.
  • They recognize that I consider them to be a mentor.
  • They care about my career and like to stay updated.

Stage 3: Mega Mentor

  • I will get a prompt response whenever I have a question.
  • I connect with them regularly on a professional and personal level. (They’re a friend too)
  • I can turn to them for help with pretty much anything and they will help me.
  • They’re always asking about my career and trying to help.  They want me to succeed.

Having mentors in all three stages allows me to find help whenever I need it, whether the problem is big or small.

Up until now, I’ve never broken it down like this.  I don’t have a system where I try to push mentors from stage 1 to stage 2.  All my mentorships have been developed naturally.  Some get to stage 3, most stay at stage 1.  Regardless, I’m grateful for all.

Not only can you have different levels of mentors, but you can also have different types.  Providing yourself with a support system of mentors will ensure that you’re not going through your career alone.

How do you build your network of mentors?

Read more about mentorship.

5 thoughts on “The 3 Stages of Mentorship

  1. I’ve never looked at it like this or considered any of my different mentors in these categories. It helps to put things into perspective. Great post!

  2. I think an important element to this is being sure to recognize people who YOU may not realize are your mentors and beginning to treat them more as such.

    I know that here in Sioux Falls there are a good number of people I consider mentors who would probably see me more as a peer or semi-peer than a mentee (is that the right word?). These are the 28-32 year old-ish folks who have been around the industry (and the industry here in Sioux Falls, specifically) longer than I have been. They may not see THEMSELVES as mentors in that they are still figuring things out for themselves, but they do enough at the stage one mentor level for me to consider them as such.

    I come across a lot of people who say they were never given a mentor or they’ll tell me “It’s not easy to just *find* a mentor.” I agree with them, but I think part of it is recognizing the qualities of a mentor (which is why this post from you is so on-point) rather than just assuming everyone in your industry is a friend or competitor. Honestly, some of my favorite stage one mentors would be considered “competition.” Some of them even come from agencies I’ve left in the past.

    Again…if you keep your eyes and your mind open, you’ll realize that the people who influence you every day, whether that’s in normal life, on Twitter, or people not even related to your industry at all, are definitely mentors you can learn a thing or twelve from. Don’t be afraid to treat them as such just because they don’t have the official title of “mentor.”

    Good thoughts, David. Don’t stop believin’.

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