Over 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.