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November 28, 2006

Making an Example Out of You

I'm curious about mentors because I've never had one. I'm especially curious how it works at its optimum best because not only have I never had one, but I can't imagine who my mentor would have been in previous work environments.

It reminds me of the dating scene. It's hard to find your right match as a mentee. There were more senior staffers whose work and professional skills I admired, but they never seemed to show much interest in reaching out. And then there were the more senior employees who loved to reach out, but not with any practical advice or networking potential. Worst of all, I believe I even had what qualified as a reverse mentor--a more senior worker who was so competitive she actually wished me harm!  The workplace version of the worst and most painfully long date in history.

To extend the dating parallel, there are now software programs that facilitate mentor/mentee matchmaking. Just as potential paramours often don't look as appealing as the electronic conglomerations representing them online, choosing the right mentor/mentee is probably a lot more complex than mathematically scrambling databased personality traits, career experiences and aspirations. So, do most of you just use the software as a place to start, with the understanding the matches that look good on screen need to be vetted in person, and so, mentees are given a few proposed mentors to choose from, and vice versa?  They meet (for coffee, dinner, how serious?) and dump from there.

Once you've brought together all these great matches, what are the prospects for long-term happiness? I've heard the divorce rate is 50 percent. What's the break-up rate like among mentor/mentees? Becoming a mentor sounds ideal at first, but do you really have time to make the fledgling a priority on your to-do list, and when they fall short, will you still be able to enthusiastically encourage them?  And then you might just get plain sick of them. All the whining about unfulfilled ambitions and not knowing the way; and, from the perspective of the mentee, all that officious bossiness. What happens when I find out my mentor doesn't actually know anything? Is it like husbands? Can I get a new one?


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