Reflecting on Mentoring Myths

Reflecting on Mentoring Myths

This week, Chrysalis Executive Director, Terry Hernandez, was part of an event presented by Business Publications that recognized women and the messages they would convey to their younger selves. As part of the evening, informal conversations reflecting on early career experiences, professional challenges, and wisdom of mentors took place among small clusters of both women and men. 

During the conversations, Terry realized that she had few women mentors, in fact, few at all. But also realized that she wasn’t so concerned about quantity as I was about the quality of “mentors”. She also began to understand, as many of the event attendees noted, that there are myths about women mentors that perhaps needed a fresh look. Here are some thoughts:

  1. It’s not critical to find the “perfect mentor” or set up a formal mentoring situation - informal relationships outside of structured situations may prove to be more effective – the relationship develops organically without pressure or structure, building trust, and shared values.
  1. Women need both female and male mentors – relationships with the right support at the right time with the right approach can be tremendously important. Women who don’t seek out male mentors and role models may miss out on key discussions that challenge stereotypes and provide great insight that may boost success. And in fields men dominate, it’s essential to build relationships with men who can champion women. 
  1. Mentoring can come in a range of forms – one-to-one, groups, online discussions, and more. It’s not necessarily a “one size fits all” experience. 
  1. Women are more likely to be successful using networking to build a cadre of support – in addition to not relying on just one mentor, women build social and career skills suitable for many situations and constituencies. 
  1. In addition to mentors, sponsors are key to career growth – sponsors are likely higher-level professionals who connect you to the right people, gives you critical feedback as well as guidance and may benefit by your success.

Everyone can benefit from a mentor throughout life, particularly youth and young professionals. In Chrysalis After-School programs, we teach facilitators to use a “growth mindset” in mentoring girls, and this is an approach that can effective in all types of relationships.

In a “growth mindset,” people believe that their abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication and that brains and talent are only a starting point. It’s not just about praise or rewards – it’s about the learning process including asking for help, trying new strategies, and learning from setbacks and challenges.

Whether you’re providing guidance and advice, mentoring, coaching, or teaching, embracing a growth mindset empowers and motivates, providing long-term commitment and higher achievement in the long run.