No, You’re Not a Mentor!

No, You’re Not a Mentor!

Sometime last month, I came across a short piece from a top career person castigating young people for being too eager to teach others online and too eager to become mentors.

It piqued my interest because while I disagree with the part about anyone being too young to teach others what they know, I agree that sometimes, some of us younger people are too eager to wear the mentor badge too early.

Mentoring others requires more than having a head knowledge of or being a professional in a field. It requires knowledge taught by experience and time, something that some of us don’t take into account when we offer the hands of mentorship to those we think we know more than.

I have gotten messages from a number of people in the past to mentor them, and I have sent my share of such messages in the past, but I have always been conscious of the fact that just head knowledge of the subject matter should not be a criterion for becoming a mentor.

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In addition to head knowledge of the subject matter and experience, you should also have had a measure of success in the field you are choosing to mentor people to even qualify as a serious mentor.

Mentorship is not necessarily motivational speaking even if you’re expected to motivate your mentees and help them be their best selves. It’s sharing candidly from experience on how you dealt with this, how you overcame that and how to navigate this or that.

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When you take on mentees and they ask you about a challenge they are facing, they are not expecting “aspire to perspire”, or bullshit lines like “he who fails to plan, plans to fail”, or “diligence is the soul of business”. They want actual advise on how to navigate those waters and if you have not navigated those waters or similar ones, why are you choosing to be a mentor too early?

Teaching people is easy if you know what you’re talking about, but taking on the responsibility of guiding people and helping them navigate tricky terrains in their career and life is a bigger deal than most motivational bullshitters masquerading as mentors realize or are willing to face up to.

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Teach people all you want and know, fine. But, let those who have been there and done that take on the responsibility of mentoring those just coming.

James Ogunjimi
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