The Inherent Flaw in the Mentor-Mentee Concept

By Carrie Majewski

I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy, when I found out I was accepted into a prestigious editorial intern program for a New York City magazine. As a magazine major about to head into her senior year, this was a big day.

The internship was going to put me one step closer to landing my dream job; give me a first-hand glimpse into the hustle and bustle of the magazine industry; and allow me to rub elbows with editorial bigshots. At the very least, I would be able to leave the summer with one mentor. Someone who would undoubtedly provide me with the salient guidance needed to navigate the big, bad corporate world. Someone who—if I demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt why I was worth mentoring—would open doors for me.

So I spent that summer determined to find a mentor. And I was relentless in my quest.

I seized every moment to stand out. I lent my opinion in editorial meetings while other interns sat quiet; I concocted any excuse to solicit input from my supervisor to ensure I had enough “face time” to be memorable; and I painstakingly crafted close to a dozen handwritten thank-you notes that final day to cement the bonds. Following that summer, I knew the hard work had really only just begun, though. I now had to figure out how to stay in contact with my supervisor and evidence why I was still mentor-worthy, post internship.

When I look back more than a decade later, though I am proud of myself for the conviction I exhibited in laying the groundwork to be worthy of mentorship, I also feel a bit saddened that I felt compelled to “play the game.” Some of it was because of the pressure I placed on myself, but a lot of had to do with the paradigm that exists around the mentor-mentee relationship.

If you look at traditional definitions, the mentor is often defined as the more experienced, wise senior professional whose time is viewed as worthy and valuable; whereas the mentee is typically more greenfield. This immediately casts an old-young dichotomy. What’s more, because of the definition, much of the onus of finding and securing the relationship is placed on the mentee. Numerous publications detail how to secure a mentor, giving advice to mentees including:

  • Find someone from whom you wish to learn
  • Strike up the relationship in a very delicate and intentional manner
  • Ensure that each interaction is worthwhile for the mentor as his or her time is limited

In other words, the traditional mentor-mentee relationship instantly places the mentee in a subservient role, essentially having to prove him or herself to capture the attention of the wiser, more experienced, more professional individual.

Now granted, in many instances the responsibility should be on the mentee, particularly when that individual is just embarking on his or her career and feels less confident in his or her ability to give back. But as we move forward in our career and pursuits, we need to recognize that no matter our Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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