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Moving On From Your Mentor

A mentor can be invaluable, but relationships change and moving on from your mentor is a big decision.  Here are Get-It-Done Guy’s 7 tips to know when and how to change the relationship.

By
Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #208

Listener Georgia writes:

“How do you know when it’s time to move on from your mentor? What if you find out that your mentor is human and not the deity that you have always placed on a marble pedestal?”

A mentor is simply someone who's been where you are, and traveled that path—or a similar one—before. In corporations, a mentor is someone who knows the lay of the land and helps you navigate the complexities of organizational life. Mentors even promise not to backstab you for their own gain, which can be a refreshing change. And hopefully, they can help you avoid political blunders; they know where all the skeletons are buried. That's really convenient because skeletons are high in calcium (which promotes healthy teeth) and it's hard to find one that's not being used.

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But as much fun as your mentor may be on that drive out to the cemetery, the time may come when you two should part ways. Here are 7 ways to tell when that time has come:

Tip #1: Part Ways if There's a Conflict of Interest

Although part of a good mentor relationship is the agreement not to backstab each other, the time may come when you find yourself at odds. Say you're an apprentice to the Dark Lord of Sith and part of the career path is to rise up, destroy your mentor, and absorb his life force. That's a genuine conflict of interest.

Conflicts can happen many ways: if you’re moved into your mentor’s chain of command, your mentor may feel compelled to put their needs as a manager ahead of your needs. If your mentor is a consultant to a client and you’re on a committee overseeing that client’s expenses, you really don’t want to be the one who has to make your mentor justify every expense voucher. Especially when several of them were for working lunches with you. And if you end up forming a close relationship with one of your mentor’s business colleagues, and they later have a falling out, well, let’s just say things get messy.

If you can trust your mentor—and no, you can never trust the Dark Lord of Sith—raise the issue. Explain your concerns to your mentor, and you might be able to come to an arrangement. Perhaps you can avoid certain topics when you meet together, or agree to part ways temporarily until the conflicted issue has passed.

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.