Mentor Monday: The Wrong Way to Mentorship

Photo cred: Miles Tsang
Photo cred: Miles Tsang

Having a mentor is a privilege.  It should not be taken advantage of.

If you want to build a healthy mentorship, here are some things you SHOULDN’T do:

1. Do not approach someone to be your mentor with a one sided agenda.

Some mentors may not expect anything in return for their advice but that’s not something you should assume.  Some of the best mentorships are ones where the mentee helps out their mentor as an assistant, or helping hand of sorts. Take Sarah Merion and Lewis Howes as a perfect example of a mutually beneficial mentorship.

2. Do not set unreasonable expectations.

Your mentor has a job and their own life.  You can’t always rely on them to be there to help you at the drop of a hat.  They’re a great resource but do not become reliant on them.  Learn to walk on your own two legs.

3. Do not ask your mentor to do work for you.

This should go without saying.  Your mentor can provide support, answers and lessons.  They cannot do your work for you.

4. Do not contact your mentor only when you need help.

One of the toughest things about maintaining a healthy mentorship is staying in touch on a regular basis.  It can become an issue when the only time you reach out to your mentor is when you need something.  While asking for advice or help might be the main interaction you have with your mentor, you should try to communicate on a personal level as well.  Have an occasional friendly chat, or to tie in to number 2, ask how you can help them once in a while.

5. Do not force it. A mentorship has to be the right fit.  You may want someone to be your mentor, but if it’s not meant to be, it’s not going to work.  Find a professional that you can relate to on a professional, and personal level.

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Mentor Monday: Using Chats to Find Mentors

Photo cred: Kevin Zollman
Photo cred: Kevin Zollman

This is a guest post from Valerie Merahn Simon.

I was fortunate to meet my first great mentor when I was still in college.

Bill Sweeney, who at the time was heading EDS’s global government affairs office, was an alumnus of American University (my alma mater) and a founder of the Campaign Management Institute (one of my favorite learning experiences while at AU).

I met Bill because of my summer job. I didn’t have an important internship that summer, but as a swim instructor at AU swim school, I certainly had the opportunity to meet a lot of parents. Bill happened to be the father of two of my favorite students.

Finding a mentor while still in college can be a challenge. The academic world is often isolated from “the real world.” But social media offers the opportunity to change that. In August, Deirdre Breakenridge and I began #PRStudChat to provide students with an opportunity to connect directly with industry leaders and educators in a new learning environment that brings together the academic and professional world. Three months later, individual relationships and the community are building into important resources.

As one of David’s recent guests, Arik Hanson, points out, mentoring has been redefined as the result of social media.  In a departure from the traditional one on one mentor/mentee relationships, social media has created the opportunity to build substantive relationships with a wide array of professionals, regardless of geographic boundaries.

Participating in Twitter chats can be one way to find new professionals and begin to build new relationships with individuals who bring different backgrounds, experiences and strengths. Last week Miguel A. Llano pointed out the benefit of creating a “Board of Mentors”; I’d like to share how you can use Twitter chats as one tool to help you fill that board.

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, here is a quick guide. As those of you who have participated in David and Lauren’s #u30pro chat already know, twitter chats offer a tremendous opportunity to develop relationships and learn from other professionals.  If you participate regularly, you WILL develop mentoring relationships.  Here are a few tips to help you identify and develop mentoring relationships:

  1. Break out of your current network and get to know experts in different areas by attending different chats.
  2. Listen carefully and actively to the conversation. Ask questions and share knowledge. @ Reply to individual comments, to encourage dialog and assure your response is not lost in the stream.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, when the chat ends, take action to assure that the relationships do not. Follow professionals you have met. Create a special column in HootSuite, TweetDeck, or whatever Twitter App you are using to assure that you do not miss future conversations. Follow their blogs and be sure to add your comments. Continue the conversation

But don’t just look to fill your “Board of Mentors”; add your knowledge and experience to someone else’s board. Young professionals can play an important role in helping students prepare for a career. I urge young PR professionals to take the time to do some “virtual mentoring” by joining #PRStudChat and passing along their own wisdom and experiences.

You don’t have to be a senior level professional to be a mentor. During #PRStudChat, some of the best insights have come from Millennials like Lauren Fernandez. With participants ranging in experience from students to industry thought leaders, one thing is very clear. We are all students. And we are all teachers. As David noted in his post on reverse mentoring, “Ultimately, every mentorial relationship should be a two way street.”

Have you ever participated in a Twitter chat? Have you been able to build individual relationships from the group conversation? What suggestions would you offer to those looking to develop mentoring relationships from a chat?

Valerie Merahn Simon currently serves as a Senior Vice President at BurrellesLuce media monitoring and measurement, and writes a national public relations column for She is also co-founder and host of #PRStudChat, a monthly twitter chat between PR professionals and students moderated by Deirdre Breakenridge. She can be found on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Mentor Monday: Corporations Have a Board of Directors; Individuals Need a Board of Mentors

Guest Post: Miguel A. Llano is responsible for new business development and social media strategy at Martino Flynn, a marketing, PR, and digital media agency based out of Rochester, NY.

Photo cred: Varnent
Photo cred: Varnent

In a recent post by David, he wrote on the topic of a reverse mentor. In my comment on this post, I stated that it is important for people to develop a board of advisors, which David quickly renamed “Board of Mentors”.

A corporate Board of Directors is usually made up of individuals that have formed influential relationships, have been successful, and have some sort of expertise that can be used to make decisions that are in the best interest of the shareholders (or owners of the company).  A Board of Mentors can provide the same benefits to a young adult. The value of having experienced individuals of all ages from different industries, education levels, and ethnicities can be unparallel.

As David has stated before in some of his other “Mentor Monday” posts, some people may know that they are your mentor, others may not. Here is a quick list of some of the individuals on my “Board of Mentors”:

Luis Martinez (@Quick37): A career coach and published author with many years of corporate HR experience.

Iveth Reynolds (@TriMarConsult): The CEO of her own company and heavily involved in non-profit work.

Julio Ahumada (@JulioMAhumada): A marketing biz dev executive and networking mad man.

Jim Reynolds (@JimmyRey): A business development manager with start-up experience and a technology juggernaut.

David Spinks (@DavidSpinks): The token “reverse mentor”.

(There are more, but to conserve space, I will stop here.)

These five individuals have all helped me in one way, shape, or form.  Each one comes from a different background and has different strengths. Almost any possible business scenario could be covered by the experiences and/or knowledge of one or any combination of these individuals.

Who is on your “Board of Mentors”? Do you think that there should be a limit to the number of mentors an individual has?

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Mentor Monday: Arik Hanson talks about the changing nature of mentoring.

Business mentors have been around since the beginning of business.  Like many other aspects of business, while the concept of mentorship remains the same, new developments in tools and technology allow us to practice these concepts in new, and possibly more efficient ways.

This mentor Monday, I am honored to have a guest video post from Arik Hanson, a mentor of mine.  In this video, he shares some thoughts on recent trends in the way professionals build mentor relationships, and how mentors and mentees interact.


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5 Benefits of a Reverse Mentor

Photo Cred: whereisyourmind
Photo Cred: whereisyourmind

A reverse mentor is a mentor that is younger than the person that they are mentoring.  A relatively new term, but an old concept, reverse mentoring requires an open mind and a willingness to learn.  A great mentor can extremely valuable, regardless of the age of either party.  We all have something to learn and contribute from one another.

Not sure what you stand to gain from a reverse mentor?  Here are a few benefits…

  1. Fresh Ideas. You’ve been in the game a long time.   You’ve developed habits over time, from doing similar projects many times over.  With such repetition, it can be hard to think outside of your comfort zone.  A reverse mentor can shed a completely new light on a situation. A fresh perspective from fresh eyes.
  2. New Tools. Again, being in the game for a long time, you’ve probably become comfortable with certain tools and technologies.  Perhaps you haven’t updated in a while.  A younger professional that is just starting off, will probably start with the newest tools and technology, and so they can introduce you to it. (Not to say you are less tech-savvy)
  3. Reignite Your Flame. Over time, perhaps you’ve lost a bit of your excitement for your profession.  Take the ambition and eagerness to learn from your reverse mentor (assuming you chose a good one) and use it to get yourself fired up again.  They can help you reignite your own eagerness to learn.
  4. Teach to Learn. This one might not work for everyone.  Whenever I had a test coming up in school, and I explained a question or topic to another student, it helped me understand and remember it better.  By teaching a younger professional, you may end up touching on things that you haven’t had to do in a while, or haven’t been so comfortable with, and it will force you to understand it well enough to teach it.
  5. Just Learn. Sometimes, age will have nothing to do with it.  You will just learn from the thoughts and insights of another professional that happens to be younger than you.  Don’t let a stereotype prevent you from learning.

Ultimately every mentorial relationship should be a two way street.  Both the young, and the not as young professional should learn from each other.

What else would you add to the list?  How has a reverse mentor helped you?

Remember to thank your mentors every Mentor Monday.