As I try to make my way up the career ladder I have found the support of others is essential. I really do miss having a good mentor to coach me and call me out on any bullshit though.
I have a number of experiences of ‘mentors’ – one was good, one was bad.
I was fortunate to have a mentor when I did a graduate placement. I was doing a course in Leadership skills and one of the requirements was to be assigned a mentor who would coach you as you progressed.
Sue had volunteered her time for my development and by a stroke of luck she was very experienced in coaching people – as her full time profession was a life coach.
The short four month period I worked with her made the biggest impact on my life. It changed my perspective how I saw myself and others. In many ways some of the things I have written about here is probably second hand wisdom I received from Sue.
She addressed one of my negative attributes in the the most subtle fashion that I never took it as an insult:
I had been complaining about one of my colleagues. He was very confident and lacked humility. He also happened to be very successful.
When we were at meetings he seemed to be the centre of attention and although I had successes, they seemed small in comparison to all the results he bragged about.
I couldn’t hold my annoyance at him anymore and mentioned him during a chat. She simply said:
“Why does it matter, concentrate on your own results”.
This floored me and stuck with me, it made me realise that I had become a bitter person – I hated people who were more successful than me, confident and liked. It also made me wonder if I could have been more successful if I had focused on my projects rather than on other people.
From that day I change how I carried myself, I would not feel negative about people but look on the positive side of life. She was a great mentor and got me on the path of doing better.
On the first day of a new job in Project Management I had an encounter with another new starter. She was only just above me on the career ladder and for the day I had to endure her talking about herself. Like my experience with the gentlemen on the graduate placement she lacked humility – the difference was that she had not actually achieved anything yet.
She was good at one thing – talking about herself, whether it was past jobs, her family, her degree – she was full of herself. Randomly she said to me:
“You don’t want to do that job all your life, I am on my way up, surely you want more?”
I was shocked and insulted that she would say such a thing. She quickly followed up by saying:
“I don’t know what you want in life….” and I couldn’t help but think – of course you don’t know what I want because you have not made a single effort to listen to me.
“If you want I can be your mentor” she said – I did not feel that warranted a response, she had shown no interest in me and had made me feel pretty shitty on my first day.
I never did accept an offer of mentorship, but I am making the assumption that she would have been poor at the job as I got the impression that she was not interested in developing me – but herself. She was quite keen to get into management and I think she wanted something to look good on a CV (Incidentally my reputation thrived while Bad Mentor quietly left after a number of errors and disagreements with management).
How to be a good mentor
- Make helpful suggestions
- Boost Confidence
- Do the role for the benefit of others
- May not refer to themself as a mentor
- Experience of guiding others a plus!
How to be a bad mentor:
- Don’t listen
- Make harmful suggestions or undermine abilities
- Put person down
- Do the role for the benefit of yourself
- Will refer to themself as a mentor – even if they have never mentored anyone in their life
So if you fall into the good mentor criteria welcome aboard, if you want to be a mentor because of your own selfish, narcissist ambitions then please just move on – but I suspect as a sociopath this won’t stop you.
Till next time, I’ll stick with being a protégé.