In 95% of the cases, if your boss is your mentor – you have the wrong person. Figure out if you have the right person as a mentor by answering the following questions:
- Is my contact on a regular periodic basis – at least quarterly?
- Has my mentor ever suggested I consider moving positions or
companies to further my career?
- Is guidance specific to me without any hidden agendas?
- Do I receive insights into the behaviors and politics behind what is being done or said?
- Are options considered with implications or is a single path recommended?
- Are my unique talents being maximized?
- Is there a good balance between personal satisfaction and company requirements?
- Is my mentor more like or unlike me?
- Do I feel judged or loved by mentor?
- How did I find my mentor?
The mentor relationship is generally one that develops through networking or by being recognized as someone who is a learner. Often informal, the best relationships are not your boss or someone who has a role in evaluating your performance. It just gets too messy. They are often several levels above you in your specific function or in a role you aspire to cross-functionally. Mentors may be inside or outside of your company. Inside, they may hold back due to corporate politics, outside – they may lack some insights in the politics or company culture. The amount of information they share with you relates to the trust built with them and how they see the information is being handled by you.
A mentor does not provide insight or advice that satisfies their personal or company ulterior motives. Their focus is to assist you in achieving your potential with thoughtful consideration for alternatives. A successful mentor relationship is where similarities and differences meet to generate out of the box thinking. The relationship should be open and secure for you to share your challenges, failures and successes. Conversely, a mentor will be encouraging and when necessary, truthfully blunt.
Mentors are not a crutch or psychological couch. Their interaction with you will generally be limited to specific topics such as career or skill advancement. Your mentor is not on speed dial. The relationship may last a year or a lifetime.
If you do not have the right mentor, learn about how to a mentor.