Mentoring Obstacles

I don’t think my mentor is the best match for me - what should I do?

Do you have realistic expectations of your mentoring relationships?

Are you looking for the &lsquoperfect match ’ — someone to be your champion, be a confidante, tell you what career direction to take and provide key advancement opportunities? Don’t feel upset if you haven’t made a deep connection as you can still learn a lot from your mentor.

Put the effort it.

Mentoring is not a one-way street where the mentor gives and the mentee takes. Consider how you can contribute to a mutually encouraging, supportive relationship? Do you arrive at meetings prepared with questions you’d like your mentor’s input on? Are you checking in with your mentor? Take the initiative to arrange meetings, ask questions and do what you said you’d do.

Appreciate differences - learning from someone who speaks and acts differently than you.

If you give up on a mentor who you’re having difficulty identifying with, you’re losing out on an opportunity to grow and to learn. As Margaret Heffernan argues in her TED talk Dare to Disagree, “we must take a courageous stand to surround ourselves with true thinking partners, and not echo chambers who simply tell us what we want to hear.” Remember that mentoring can be a productive conversation that addresses a specific situation, as well as longer relationships that have a personal connection.

Be mentor-worthy.

Be open-minded, willing to learn new things and gain other perspectives. It’s important to be responsive to suggestions and constructive criticism rather than taking them personally. Remember that your mentor’s intentions are to help you succeed.

Respect your mentor’s time.

They are giving you the gift of their time and experience. Express your appreciation with a thank-you card or let them know how you’ve benefited from the relationship. Even if you’re busy, always respond to your mentor’s emails and questions in a timely manner.

Communication is key.

Be open and honest with each other. If there’s a misunderstanding or conflict, address this sooner rather than later. If it becomes clear that the mentoring match simply isn’t going to work, that’s ok too. Instead of avoiding the elephant in the room, be polite and thank them and part ways amicably, remembering that that person could be an ally or a great connection later in your career.

Give it time.

Remember that relationships develop organically over time, through mutual trust and respect. So keep showing up at your meetings and be patient.