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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

The trouble with mentors… is finding one

Categories: relationships


Macro - Search ButtonOver at The Cornered Office, Mir recently wrote about healthy boundaries for a mentoring relationship. Her post was, in part, a response to another article on Penelope Trunk’s blog about what good mentoring looks like. While I was intrigued by the ideas put forth in both essays, my strongest reaction was resentment.

I am resentful when I hear other women talk about mentors because I’ve never been able to enlist the help of one myself.

I’ve read about the importance of mentoring in multiple columns and heard it espoused from the podiums at business conferences. Successful women and success gurus both lament the value of learning from others. And I am sold on the idea, utterly and completely!

Unfortunately, people who are willing to actually mentor are not as easy to find as people who are willing to speak about mentoring.

I’ve sought out women in my industry and women in other industries who possess traits that I admire. I’ve sent emails and tried to arrange phone calls.The problem, however, is that these women are incredibly busy - at least, I’m telling myself that’s the problem and that it isn’t because I’m inherently unlikable or something. Surely it’s not personal, right?

OK, it feels a little personal.

I work not only for myself but mostly by myself, and it would be fantastic to have a resource for advice and accountability. I’m downright jealous when I hear stories of mentors and mentees; I crave that kind of connection and learning.

In lieu of a mentor, I’ve adopted role models. I lean on my girlfriends for professional advice and do a lot of crowd sourcing on Facebook and Twitter. That’s fine, but I suspect Facebook is not a replacement for an experienced mentor, and my girlfriends are understandably biased when it comes to discussing my strengths and weaknesses.

I wish there was a service I could sign up for. Last year, a smart woman tried to start exactly that, but she soon found she had substantially more wanna-be mentees than capable mentors. (So I know it’s not personal.) I have hired coaches, but their experience is mostly in coaching and selling coaching, which is only loosely related to my own goals.

So yes, I’m a little bitter when I read about the benefits and pitfalls of mentoring. But more than that, I’m sad - and maybe a little lonely working in the corner of this coffee shop.

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7 comments so far...

  • Having a mentor is a lot easier when you’re still under 18. So many programs exist for mentoring then. Even in college there are mentoring opportunities. In life, it seems much harder. I had a great supervisor at my final job in Vermont who I considered a mentor, but there was nothing official about the mentorship. Now that I work for a small school in a big university I, too, crave the mentor-mentee relationship but everyone here seems too busy for that. I hope you find one. :)

    Poppy  |  October 3rd, 2012 at 9:41 am

  • The only mentor I ever had was the creative director at the ad agency I worked for. He was wonderful (a woman would have even been better), but I couldn’t continue at the company and the relationship was lost.

    Hope you can find one soon!

    Megan  |  October 3rd, 2012 at 9:56 am

  • You’re not the only lonely one. I’m also mentor-less. Role models (and Twitter!) help, but you’re right, it’s not the same thing.

    Nicole P.  |  October 3rd, 2012 at 11:16 am

  • I have found that mentors show up when you least expect it — or at least when you’re not actively looking for one — and sometimes the relationship is only identifiable as such after the fact. Looking back on the mentors I’ve had, all of them actually arose from a relationship that started mutually for other reasons entirely. I think there’s an inherent shortcoming in any relationship you enter into under the premise of how that person can help you, not how you can help them which is why the whole setting out to find a mentor or hiring a mentor, even, usually doesn’t work.

    Diana  |  October 3rd, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  • Ditto, Diana!

    My company has tried formal mentoring several times over the years and it never works. Assigning mentors and mentees just… forces a realationship where there wasn’t one. Those forced relationships just don’t seem to stick.

    Your best mentors are going to just sneak up on you. You may not know that they are mentors until you look back on the relationship after a couple of years.

    Grace  |  October 4th, 2012 at 7:45 am

  • I think role models work better for me. Being incredibly busy myself, I don’t have time for a mentor. Much less, I don’t want the feeling of being forced to meet with someone on a schedule.

    If you think mentoring would work for you, I hope you do get a chance to try it. I think watching and learning from leaders in your field or other sectors will help you by giving you insights from many different people, instead of just one.

    Perhaps you could get one-off meetings with some of these persons, even if they do not have the time to mentor you on a continuous basis.

    Allie@znetlive  |  October 7th, 2012 at 5:47 pm

  • RSS, you are so right …..the average working -girl needs a mentor , but those senior executives with all the experience don’t have time , or even a willing spirit to reach out to others. I have heard of a company called coach net , that has a mentoring coaches built into thier program. We used them in the beginning of our venture starting our company BooBoo Kids. They gave us a roadmap,and some advice that was priceless. Also I picked up a mentor work book and made a book club out of it. I used my church women’s group as my fishing pond. We had 6 women participate and each shared thier strengths and growth areas . That was successful for me at the time.(several years ago) hope that is helpful. Therese

    Therese  |  October 10th, 2012 at 5:55 pm