Why I Surveyed People If They Have a Mentor

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, August 24, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

Several weeks ago I ran a quick poll on The Hot Iron asking people if they have a mentor or not. I tried to keep it to a simple “yes” or “no” but the wiseguy in me drove the 3rd question of “what is a mentor” but in hindsight, it may not be that crazy of a question.

This post and survey initiated a lot of dialogue in the form of both blog and Facebook comments and some direct questions from people. It got people thinking. As well these folks asked me why I was posing this question.

My reason was a simple one - I do not have a mentor.

My Definition of a Mentor

Before I go into the “problem” I thought I would define it first. My general definition of a mentor is a senior, non-compensated, action-oriented individual who works to ensure your career thrives! This is someone who does not have a financial stake in your success, rather a personal and emotional one. No goods and services outside of a cocktail or meal are ever exchanged. They are not there to tell you what to do, but to provide wisdom and guidance for you to use in your decision-making.

Now For The Analysis

I cannot pinpoint why exactly I do not have a mentor. I am certainly not alone in the world, as I have a great network of friends, colleagues, partners and clients with whom I collaborate and seek advice from regularly. But this network is more of a peer group. The fact I come from the technology field may attribute to it, as many techies prefer to be alone and many do not seek out anyone, with the exception if they need help troubleshooting their code. My entrepreneurial timeline is going on 5 years, so maybe this is too short?

Over the years I have worked for some good managers that I learn much from. When I worked for a large consulting firm I had several “staff managers” who were supposed to oversee your career growth within the firm. Some were decent, and some sucked and I got nothing from them at all. In the end, the advancement of the firm came first, as the one time I sought my staff manager to get me out of COBOL and into the Web, they didn’t even pretend to make an effort to help.

On the flipside, I have been told by people I have been a mentor to them. Whether it was people on my team, peers within a company or interns, I was told I provided good advice and support above and beyond whatever formal working role there was. I have enjoyed this role and have accepted any mentoring or advice requests from people over the years. I also serve on the Board of Advisors for 2 firms.

So What To Do About It

In life you can’t go back and change things. Even if you could, my guess it you would probably make pretty much the same decision. Where I can’t go back and change whatever I did or did not to do, I can only go forward and effect change.

But how?

Thus I am writing this post. Just today I read a great article on mentoring by Jason Jacobsohn , so I am inspired to engage in this process. I welcome any insight and advice from those who have sought out mentors on what worked and what didn’t work. Or if you have a mentor or are mentoring someone, how did it come about?

I’ll report progress - stay tuned.

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