With all the talented professionals in the world (including those reading this article), you’d think lots of people would want to become a mentor, right? That no one who ever wanted a mentor had to go without?
In researching and working directly with mentorship programs in companies, professional associations, and universities, I keep hearing this concern:
“We have a lot of people who want a mentor, but not enough mentors.”
Because becoming a mentor can be a great investment of your time and energy, and not just for the other person, but for your own career and growth as a leader.
So if there are so many awesome, talented professionals out there, why don’t more of them want to become a mentor? After talking to several successful people in these organizations who are not currently mentoring others, I heard three myths repeated over and over.
Maybe one of these myths is blocking you from saying “yes” to becoming a mentor:
Myth #1: I don’t have enough time.
Ah, if only we could redefine our conflicted relationship with time. (I’ve been working on that; more here.)
If you’re like me, you never feel like you have enough time. But the time is clicking by anyway. How I use it is what matters.
Becoming a mentor is a great way to invest a little time and get a big result, both for the other person and your own career. (Here’s how.)
And it doesn’t have to be a big commitment. You, as the mentor, get to set the limits by deciding what works for you:
- “I’m available for a scheduled phone call once a [week/month/quarter/full moon].”
- “Let’s just commit to a three month schedule to start. That way we can see how it works for both of us.”
- “I’m best at communicating via [email/text/voicemail/WhatsApp]–please reach out that way only.”
As the mentor, you set the boundaries that work for the time you have. Whatever time you can offer will typically be more than what the mentored person is getting now, so even a little bit matters.
(Need more help to get control over your time? Check out our free resources here.)
Myth #2: I don’t have enough experience.
Here’s the truth: a good mentor does NOT have to be the expert in all things in her field.
A mentor doesn’t have to be a senior leader in the company. Doesn’t have to be a success story.
Doesn’t have to be perfect.
(Heck, if we waited for those people to come along, we’d never have mentors.)
We mistakenly think that most people seeking mentors are seeking an expert. Even THE expert.
But what people are really seeking is to be heard. To be noticed.
And you can do that, right where you are, just as you are, with your existing set of superpowers on hand.
You can become a good mentor just be listening and offering a fresh perspective. You might just be someone who cares greatly, who can empathize.
As a mentor, you can offer a point of view NOT based on being the expert, but based on being what you already are—a caring, real-life human.
Myth #3: I have my own career struggles—how can I mentor someone else?
W-A-I-T . . . your career is imperfect?!!?
Join the club.
No matter what you see on someone’s LinkedIn profile or Facebook wall, let me give you this slice of honest pie:
NONE OF OUR CAREERS ARE PERFECT.
(Believe me–as a professional coach and informal mentor to many, I get a daily whiff of all the stink behind those smiling social shares.)
Becoming a mentor is a great way to keep our own challenges in perspective. It helps us get fresh ideas about our own hooey. It switches our brains away from focusing on ourselves and so gives our minds a break.
And often, it just makes us feel good that what we have to share matters.
You have value, no matter what’s going on for you right now. Don’t wait for perfect. Use it now and find the places in your company and community where you can become a mentor today.