While mentorship is certainly getting more and more popular among professionals, there are still some pervasive myths and misconceptions surrounding it.
Below are some of the most common misconceptions about mentoring.
❌ 1. Your mentor must be older than you
If you're only looking for a mentor who is more seasoned than you are, you should know that it’s not the only option. Peer mentoring and Reverse mentoring are two examples that show that your mentor doesn't necessarily need to be older than you.
Peer mentoring (or Reciprocal Mentoring) is a relationship in which both people are committed to learning from each other and helping the other one reach their goals. It’s a supportive relationship between two people of similar seniority/experience, sharing that knowledge and experience.
Reverse mentoring is when a junior professional mentors someone more senior. The goal here is to help them develop new skills and connect with the younger generation.
The key requirement for a mentor is experience, seniority or age have nothing to do with it.
❌ 2. It’s one-sided
The mentor-mentee relationship is mutually beneficial. There's more to the relationship than one flow of information, knowledge, and advice. We all grow and learn from working with others even if that person is not yet at your level of experience.
Sometimes the mentor relationship is seen as a one-way street where the mentor selflessly sacrifices their time to help and support a mentee. The truth is that mentors also benefit from that relationship.
They build leadership experience that they can then use to advance their own careers, they gain valuable skills in communication and get a chance to nurture their listening skills. Overall, as a mentor it leads you to more personal satisfaction and gives you a certain sense of significance. Mentoring is truly a win-win for everyone involved.
❌ 3. It’s incredibly time-consuming
Most people think that mentorship requires too much time which is daunting for busy professionals who want to mentor but are not sure they can commit time to it.
In reality, though you do need to dedicate some time to mentoring, it can take many different forms. When it comes to modern mentorship, you decide how much time you have, how often, when etc. You can also decide when to take a break. It's completely flexible, so it can work for you no matter what your schedule is.
❌ 4. Mentorship stops once you’ve reached your goals
The duration of a mentoring relationship is something you should talk about with your mentor or mentee from the beginning. However, once that time has passed and the goals are met, it’s still beneficial for both parties to continue a relationship to help each other with any new challenges or even with networking connections. You can also reevaluate or reconsider a fresh set of goals.
❌ 5. You only need one mentor
Mentorship does not have to be a monogamous relationship and you don’t have to pick a single mentor.
In fact, a mentor that helps you in one area, might not necessarily be the right person to help you in a different one. We recommend that you work with different mentors for different elements of your professional growth and development.
While one good mentor is certainly better than none, most people benefit from a network of mentors with a mix of expertise and experience. That way you can, for example, seek out a particular person to help you with leadership skills and a different person to help you with teambuilding or marketing. You can build your own network of support - your own Personal Advisory Board - and dig into any of your mentors' knowledge whenever you need it.
Mentoring is all about finding the right person at the right time but there is no limit to the number of right people who can act as your mentors.
❌ 6. Successful people don’t need mentors
Admitting you need a mentor is not a sign of weakness. It’s quite the opposite, it shows that you are willing to learn, that you're open to different perspectives. We all need mentors. Even mentors themselves need mentors! Some of the most successful figures of our time would not be where they are today without the guidance of their mentors.
Mentorship is very useful for newcomers that need guidance through the early stages of careers, but people need mentoring throughout all stages of their career. In fact, the mentor relationship can become even more valuable mid-career when the path gets trickier to navigate. While mentoring can be an excellent way for junior professionals, or first-time business owners to gain a head start in their professional career, mentoring can is particularly invaluable for those at a more established point in their career because that's when broadening your perspective really matters.
As we advance our careers, it doesn't matter how much experience we have, there will always be new challenges to face, new problems to solve and new issues to tackle.
❌ 7. You are either a mentor OR a mentee
A lot of people think of mentoring as an absolute state - that you're either a mentor or a mentee. You're either teaching or you're learning. That's not true, nothing stops you from being both. You can have mentors and be a mentor yourself.
For example, maybe you’re a marketing expert starting your own business and you have a mentor to guide you through this new journey, someone with experience starting a business. At the same time though, you could be the perfect mentor for someone looking for advice on marketing. Being a mentee doesn't mean you don’t have the skills and knowledge to be a mentor.
❌ 8. Your mentor must be in your industry
A mentor does not have to be someone who has traveled the exact path that you are traveling. Some of the best insights come from people with different perspectives, giving you the chance to bring in a different point of view that can complement your own knowledge and experiences.
❌ 9. Mentorship is a long-term relationship
Mentoring is not one-size-fits-all. It does not need to be a long-term relationship if you don't want it to be.
It can be just a few sessions over a short period of time that provide your mentee with that extra bit of insight they need to move forward. Mentorship can also be a one-off conversation when you have a specific question or challenge that can be answered in one single conversation with an experienced advisor. It can be tailored to your needs.
Whether it's on-going, on-demand or one-off, the most important thing is to communicate openly about your needs and expectations from the very beginning with you mentor or mentee. That way you're both on the same page and in the best position to reach your goals.