Your Mentor is NOT Your Mother!

In many ways, a mentor is like a mother, but your mentor is not your mother.

Like a mother, a mentor genuinely cares about your success; they are good listeners who provide a safe environment for you to discuss a range of issues, they share their wisdom and experiences, and they encourage you to find the “right” solutions. A good mentor for you will have knowledge, skills and an understanding of the areas you are exploring or pursuing.

Like a mother, the characteristics of a good mentor include being trustworthy, patient, supportive, non-judgemental, but a mentor will be more objective about your development, your opportunities and your performance.

Like a mother, a mentor will encourage you to grow and develop as you pursue your own goals, but a mentor will not push you in a particular direction because of their own aspirations for you.

Like a mother, a mentor may comfort you when things do not go your way, but they may not “take your side”. A mentor will not tell you what you should have done; instead they will help you to see how you may have contributed to the situation and what you may do to remedy it. A mentor will not tell you what to do; instead, they will allow you to reach your own conclusions.

Like a mother, a mentor will be concerned for your health and well-being, but a mentor will not prescribe behaviors or practices for you. A mentor will share their knowledge and experience and point you towards sources you may wish to explore.

Like a mother, a mentor will have expectations of you, but a mentor will not demand that you come home for Sunday dinner. Together, you and your mentor will establish the nature of your relationship (e.g., formal or informal), the times when you will connect, where you will meet, how much time you will spend together, and whether you want to be held accountable for action plans you prepare together.

You give your mentor permission to provide you with feedback, insights and guidance; unless you ask for their input, your mentor is unlikely to make any comments. Once asked, your mentor may not “sugar coat” their feedback the way your mother might.

You set the goals and the parameters for discussions with your mentor, you set the boundaries and you decide whether or not the relationship is working for you. You get to choose your mentors and you will likely have several mentors over your career. You may discuss issues and concerns with your mentor that you would never think of discussing with your mother; in fact, you may even discuss your mother with your mentor.

So you see, in many ways, a mentor is very like a mother, but your mentor is not your mother.


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