Mentors – a loose and over-rated notion

Like the flag and ET, who can fault “mentoring”? A wise guide, who shows you the ropes and pulls you along, the Beatrice for whom we all yearn. And all consultants, HR professionals, and career counselors gush about the virtues of mentors. Certainly push anyone successful enough to be asked, and they will pick out a shining mentor who lit up their life.

What could fizzle in this warm and fuzzy? For several reasons, I think honest-to-goodness mentors happen along rarely.

1 – Your mentor can’t be your boss
2 – A mentor is more than a role model, a booster, and a protector. My sense of a mentor is someone who wisely guides the mentee through the white water of work.
3 – A true mentor – whatever that word connotes – is highly unlikely to be outside your professional world (See my post of July 14, 2005 that compares mentors to knowledge coaches.).
4 – A mentor of the opposite gender is a challenge, but an age gap, where the mentor is older, is almost assumed.
5 – Many people are threatened by smart, ambitious juniors nipping at their tails

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