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Mentors can greatly benefit your career. They can put in a good word for you, offer perspective, coach you and more. But some mentors can be a liability instead of an asset.
This doesn’t mean you should shy away from mentoring opportunities. It means you need to assess mentors in terms of their motives, their savviness and their standing in the organization
Jerry’s mentor opened many doors for him. But when she left after losing the battle to become president, he realized the she’d been using him to learn what was happening in her rival's camp. The new president was well aware of the situation. Jerry’s career never recovered and he had to leave the company.
In the beginning, Sara’s mentor was enormously helpful to her. Her performance shined because of his advice. But when Sara was promoted to his level, he became jealous. He started making her life so miserable she had to seek a transfer to another division.
Pete went to his mentor for input about a difficult situation. His mentor was a kindly man who seemed to have a wealth of knowledge. Pete listened closely to him, and acted on his advice.
Later, Pete realized his mentor was out of touch with what was happening. Though he meant well, his advice wasn’t sound. Pete’s career suffered some significant setbacks as a result.
In general, having a mentor is a good thing. But occasionally a mentor can be a negative influence on your career. You just need to be alert to that possibility.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)