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Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

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5 Mentoring misconceptions

A road sign warns that the road bends right but the road is actually bending to the left.
Figure 5 Not what you expect

Understanding what mentoring can’t do is an important part of your learning, whether you are a potential mentor or mentee. It highlights the need to set and agree clear expectations right from the beginning of the relationship.

Lance Hodgson (no date) writes in his blog post, ‘5 things mentoring is not’:

  1. Mentoring is not coaching or training – in the workplace, a coach or trainer is usually paid to address a particular need, whereas a mentor is usually looking to build a broader relationship, and their reward is altruistic.
  2. Mentoring is not a passive endeavour – it isn’t just a conversation that happens occasionally, it should involve frequent, goal-orientated communication.
  3. Mentoring is not therapy – mentoring should have a constant under-current of positivity, involving moving forward and making progress.
  4. Mentoring is not a one-way street – the relationship must be about making a connection and sharing knowledge and experience.
  5. Mentoring is not a cure all – progress can’t be made unless the individual has a desire to change and move forward, listening to advice and taking action.

In the following activity, you’ll be asked to spot some common myths about mentoring.

Activity 5 Demystifying mentoring

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

In her blog post ‘Demystifying mentoring’, Amy Gallo (2011) explains four myths about mentoring.

See if you can identify which four of the following are her myths:

  1. Mentoring can be just as effective virtually as it is face to face.
  2. You have to find one perfect mentor.
  3. The mentoring relationship must be open and honest.
  4. Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship.
  5. Mentoring is for junior people.
  6. Mentoring should be beneficial for both the mentor and mentee.
  7. Mentoring is something more experienced people do out of the goodness of their hearts.
  8. A mentor must be a good listener.


Gallo’s four myths are:

2) You have to find one perfect mentor – this is actually quite rare, and most people will have several individuals they can go to for advice.

4) Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship – although advice can be richer and more relevant when it comes from someone who knows you well and understands your goals, a one-off mentoring session with the right person at the right time can bring huge benefits.

5) Mentoring is for junior people – assuming that mentoring is only for people at the beginning of their career is a mistake. There are many points of transition, for example, a new job, career change etc. where an experienced individual can benefit.

7) Mentoring is something more experienced people do out of the goodness of their hearts – mentoring should be useful to both parties, so think about what you can offer to a potential mentor before you seek them out.

1), 3), 6) and 8) are all true.

Virtual mentoring doesn’t suit everyone, but it certainly has the potential to be just as effective as a one-to-one interaction. It is vital for a mentoring relationship to be honest and trusting, and a good relationship will be beneficial to both parties. You’ve already seen that listening is one of the most important skills for both mentors and coaches.

Now that you’ve busted some myths about mentoring, you can go on to Week 5 and learn more about what mentoring could do for you.