Three Common Misconceptions About Mentorship
"The traditional definition of a mentor -- someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less-experienced and often younger person -- needs to be both updated and broadened for today's workplace." - Susan R. Meisinger, former president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management
I can’t agree enough with Susan. As someone who lives and breathes digital mentorship (co-founder of Veterati, the digital platform for Veteran mentorship; mentor to 50+ mentees, advisor to Fortune50 companies & nonprofits seeking to build scalable mentorship programs), I often hear this: “I never imagined mentorship the way you’re describing it.”
So, here’s to shattering preconceived notions about mentorship:
1. YOU CAN BE MENTORED BY ANYONE. Just like people’s dating pools exploded due to the Internet (and platforms like eHarmony, match.com), in today’s world, who your mentors are aren’t limited to who you know. They’re not just your alumni, your professor, your parent’s friends, your friends’ friends, your first-degree/second-degree connections. Your mentors can now be perfect strangers, who care about the things you care about— who are part of your TRIBE. How do you find them? A new generation of emerging mentorship platforms. At my company , what this looks is any Veteran and Military Spouse is able to book mentorship phone calls with any successful professional who cares about our Service Members’ career success. We serve the Military Passionate Tribe. The same platform/community can be developed for any Tribe, whether it’s women leaders in tech mentoring up&coming women-in-tech, or successful minority entrepreneurs mentoring aspiring minority entrepreneurs, or individuals newly diagnosed with a life-threatening illness being mentored by survivors who know what they are going through. In the digital age, we are no longer limited to who we know. Our possibility frontiers have exploded.
2. YOU CAN BE MENTORED BY MANY PEOPLE. We're evolving faster (common stat is millennials change jobs every 2 years), so the old model of having only 1-2 mentors for many years no longer makes sense. I have 50+ mentors. Some mentors are with me for life- we have shared experiences, shared life values. But I also find new mentors as I evolve. Our most successful mentees on Veterati have 4+ mentors. Some have 25+ mentors. When we think about mentorship, we talk about “building your personal cabinet of advisors”. We are the sum average of the people we are closest to. Ask someone who their mentors are, and you get a good idea of where they’ll be in a few years.
3. DIGITAL MENTORSHIP CAN BE AS POWERFUL (OR MORE) THAN FACE-TO-FACE MENTORSHIP. Credit for this one goes to Mike Weich, Veterati mentor, US Army Veteran, Assistant VP at Bank of America for this point. Mike is a super-mentor and we were debating the pros/cons of digital versus face-to-face mentorship (on the phone, of course). Mike shared that mentees meeting mentors in real-life might be self-conscious about what they’re wearing, distracted by the environment (think loud coffee shop, trying to find parking), over-reading facial cues and body movements. In the comfort of their homes, without the pressure or distraction of external factors, digital mentorship creates a safe space for vulnerability and authenticity. Nothing against face-to-face, I personally believe nothing beats drinks. But digital can be just as powerful.
If you'd like an opportunity to mentor Veterans or military spouses transitioning from military to civilian career by sharing your story and superpowers, we invite you to join our tribe at Veterati.com.