To Mentor or Not To Mentor

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My workplace has instituted a mentoring program for women in the company.  I don’t really have anything against this and a couple of people on my team have had mentors and they’ve enjoyed the experience.  I guess mentors are supposed to be people with years of experience willing to share their wisdom and insight.  Here’s the funny thing.  I got asked to do this.  Now, I can’t see the distribution list and it is certainly possible they’ve just canvassed anyone with a manager in their title hoping to get enough hits to support the people who want mentors.  I do know my boss has mentioned it as something I should do as a “growth opportunity”.

As with everything, I have mixed emotions about this.  The one part of my brain says “ooh, an opportunity to help someone, count me in!!”  Yes, I’m still an idealist at heart.  I know I was sort of an accidental mentor to the first work daughter but I’ve had other opportunities to work one on one with people when I was teaching and it was rewarding.  I do still get a charge out of seeing someone succeed and advance.  That part seriously interests me.

But, I’m also not the ladder climber and I don’t network well so what if I get someone who really wants to do that.  Besides, I’ve got a pretty cynical outer shell from working for a giant corporation all these years.  Don’t get me wrong, I do still get some pride out the products we produce but I just don’t need all the meaningless slogans and buzzwords and campaigns that they do because they rarely result in real change.  So I could get someone who’s all swept up in that and wants advice on how to best live our corporate values.  I’d have a hard time keeping a straight face there.

As a cynic, I know that doing this would look good and would make my boss happy.  As the real me, I fully reject that as a reason for doing it.  At the end of the day, you have to be true to yourself and, if I want to be a mentor, it should be because I want what is best for whatever lucky person they assign to me.  If it is about making me look good, then it is best not to do it.

I also know the hardest part would be the whole getting comfortable with a new person thing because it takes me so long to do that.  If the first couple of meetings were just awkward small talk and long pauses, it wouldn’t be worth anyone’s time.

I guess it comes down to do I really believe that I have something useful to offer.  Yes, I’m all about helping but only if I’m really going to be helpful.  And the whole part where I don’t really see myself as a mentor/role model.  Who am I to really offer any advice when my life is far from perfect.   Do I really want to screw up somebody else??

On the other hand (haven’t I used up all my hands by now?), I think that the emotional part of me is saying yes and the fear part of me is saying no.  I listen to that fear part way too much so maybe I should just take the leap and give it a shot.  I think there is some screening process so maybe I wouldn’t even make it.  In that case, I’ve really got nothing to lose.  Decisions, decisions.



One comment

  1. From what I remember reading on your blog, you’ve already unofficially mentored multiple people at work, like your work daughter. Even if you do get someone who is hopped up on corporate Kool-Aid, you’ll still have something to offer, even if it’s not what they’re expecting. Just a thought!

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