Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

| December 11, 2010

Mentor: Someone whose hindsight can become or your foresight

I always thought I would be older when I uttered the words “when I was a young man . . .” But, here I am – a 43-year old man with one foot in the old and one in the new world.  In one direction I see a business world where companies invest in their employee as corporate assets. I remember working in an environment where people felt connected to a “second family;” where career succession planning was more than a flowery bullshit phrase in a PowerPoint presentation titled, “You are our most important asset.” And, I remember when formal mentoring programs existed to help young aspiring leaders like me find a path.

Looking at today, I see a changing landscape where employees are no longer long-term assets but short-term expenses. I see sterile work environments where people are crammed into a cubicle world straight out of a Dilbert cartoon. And, I see organizations where mentoring is a lost art. After all, why should your boss care about your future when he/she has no intention of being around more than a couple of years him/herself? It just doesn’t make business sense . . . anymore.

Regardless of the changing corporate culture, mentors remain a critical ingredient in our career plan. The difference is that we have to now take control over this process: Reach out to colleagues and ask them to be your informal mentor. Reach out to people in your social network. Reach out anywhere you can find someone.  Personally, I reached out to a couple old professors.

Similarly, we too have to be willing to take on the role of a mentor. Several of my former students have adopted me as an ongoing “advisor,” a role I am very proud and honored to play.   I also have a couple young entrepreneurs that I mentor on an ongoing basis.

Lastly, I have a small social network of peer mentors that I leverage. It’s a wonderfully symbiotic relationship between a few trusted friends where we can call one another and just bounce ideas around and offer guidance. One day, I may be seeking advice; the next day my friend. And, so on.

No matter where you find your mentor (or mentees), the most important thing is to remain in frequent contact and develop both informal AND formally structured communication channels.  Mentoring is a commitment and should be approached as one.

In closing, if we accept that a mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight, everyone in the world has the capacity to be a mentor. So, jump in.

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Category: Education, General Strategy

About Marc LeShay: I am a strategic consultant helping people find clarity in chaos View author profile.

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