Why Mentors Can Make or Break Your Career

Kris Leigh Townsend, LMFT
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A mentor is someone who has experience in your field and can offer career guidance. By sharing knowledge and assisting you in your career goals, the right mentor can skyrocket your success. Unfortunately, not every mentor is a good fit or qualified for the job. Here’s how mentors can either make or break your career.


How They Make Your Career


They teach you skills

Any mentor you have should have the qualifications or accolades you’re looking to gain. Do your research to ensure that they are credible. If this person is qualified, a mentor can teach you what they know and show you how to improve your skills.


They help you identify career goals

Imagine you’re stuck somewhere new without a map. A mentor is someone who gives you that map. They have been in your position and have gathered lessons from their journey. They likely know the best or safest way to get somewhere. They should, however, prioritize your career goals and support you in taking a new direction.


They improve your confidence

Mentors can help you prepare for new opportunities so that when you enter something new you feel prepared. They also should be highlighting what your strengths and resources are so that you can use them to your advantage. A mentor is someone who makes you feel confident when you have finished speaking with them. If you feel depleted, it’s time to reconsider.


They expand your network

If your mentor is someone who is respectable in the field, they can recommend you for positions. Not only is it important to build skills in your career, but it’s also important to have people validating those skills and helping you earn respect. Building a good network is the key to any success. You’ll find achieving your goals is easier when you don’t try to do everything alone.


How They Break Your Career


They aren’t credible

Someone who looks good on paper might not actually be a good fit to give you career advice. Again, do your research. Ask lots of questions before diving into a relationship. Make sure that they have the knowledge and skill set that you are looking for.


They are self-involved

If you find that your mentor is consistently blowing you off or appears uninterested in the meeting, they aren’t providing you with what you need in this relationship. In this case, consider getting a new mentor who has time, energy and the desire to give.


Also, a mentor may try to turn you into them. Instead of asking how you would go about solving the problem, they tell you what’s “right”. In this relationship, you might accidentally become that person's assistant or lose your individuality.


They have ulterior motives

Mentors might use their power to seek their own gain from this relationship. This is absolutely unacceptable. Mentors need to have their mentee’s needs in mind. If they are using this relationship to get themselves a promotion, they could actually be stunting your career growth to get their own. The relationship should be about advancing your needs, not theirs.


They do the work for you

If your mentor does all the work for you, you will never have to learn or apply the skills you need to advance. Instead of becoming empowered, you may become too dependent on your mentor to work independently. This also doesn’t allow you to develop your own style of working which might be equally valuable.



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