The following is a guest post by Philip Alexander, CEO of Mentorial and curator of the Startup Digest HR & Employee Experience Reading List. This post originally appeared on Medium.
Mentor comes to us in Homer’s Odyssey. He was a close friend of Odysseus who is still yet to return after the fall of Troy. Before he went away to fight the Trojan Wars, he entrusted his close friend Mentor in charge “of everything with full authority”. Mentor was the Mentor, Telemachus was the protege.
Unfortunately, Mentor didn’t do a great job of stepping into Odysseus’s shoes. One area in which he particularly failed was giving advice and support to Odysseus’s son, Telemachus. He did such a poor job, in fact, that the Goddess Athena had to step in and pretend to be him!
The one person trusted to give advice wasn’t able to do the job.
Traditional Mentoring carried on in this vein for the next 3,000 years. One senior person, assigned to a junior person to support them in all aspects of their development.
For certain situations this is fine, but given the range of skills and expertise required in most roles now, it feels like the correct number of mentors isn’t 1, but n+1.
To find someone who can help you with every aspect of your job is going to be nigh on impossible. Instead, consider creating a roster of mentors — a list of people you have a relationship with whom you can call upon for specific topics. You may have one person you turn to around career development, another for functional expertise and another for social media. In each of these areas you may, in fact, want a variety of opinions.
If you view mentorship in this way, you realize that everyone has the potential to offer advice to people on topics — information on new apps, memes, consumer technology and how to use it vs. deep technical or leadership experience.
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