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.

What Can You Expect From a Mentorship?

mentortiesIs it unreasonable to have expectations in a mentorship?

James Ryan Moreau asked me on twitter, “are mentors supposed to refer you to job postings? I found frustration in the past when I wasn’t getting interviews.”

My knee jerk reaction to the question was, you should never assume that a mentor owes you anything.  They’re committing their time as a mentor and it’s up to them what aspects of a mentorship they want to provide.

But after more thought, something like job recommendations seems like a reasonable expectation.  I think that if you respect a young professional enough to take them on as a mentee, you should be able to trust that they’ll represent you well.  If not, you shouldn’t take on taht person as a mentee.

Mentors expect things from the mentees too, don’t they?  A lot of mentorships consist of a mentor providing advice, and resources, while the mentee acts as an assistant that helps their mentor with work.  Or a mentor might just expect a mentee to work hard, to respect their time and to put in the extra effort in their career.T

Expectations are mutual.  A healthy mentorship is one in which both the mentor and the mentee trust and respect each other.  They’re professionals and they’re friends.  They’ll help each other whenever possible.

It shouldn’t be built on expectations, but rather the will to help and to learn.

Have any thoughts on this?

View all Mentor Monday posts.