As I try to make my way up the career ladder I have found the support of others 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 their 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 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 I lacked humility. He also happened to be very succesful.
When we were at meetings he seemed to be the centre of attention and the success I had been delivering 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 real Project Management job 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. 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 developing me – but herself. She was quiet keen to get into management and I think she wanted something to look good on a CV (Incidentally my reputation has 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.