Thursday, September 11, 2014


After some persistent nudging from D some months ago, and with some reluctance, I decided to try my hand at Mentorship again.  Upon my return from our latest getaway (will get to that later), an email confirming the match appeared.  It has been 16 years since my first experience and 5 years since my last.  They have all frustrated me in one way or another.

This will be my first time via this particular program.  Maybe being matched will actually mean a better fit.  It hasn't been the most fun as I have found new grads to either be not so serious about the business aspect of their job or be just too serious about making money.  Which made me question whether I'm really the right type of person to be even doing this.  Why I hesitated with offering up my time (6 month min.) yet again.

D seems to think I have much to offer and eventually I'll be matched up with someone that "gets" it.  That I've evolved a lot personally and professionally in the last 5 years. Blah, blah, blah.  This will be my last shot at this.

It has crossed my mind that I may be the problem.  That maybe I'm being particularly rigid and difficult to deal with as I have expectations for punctuality, professionalism, reasonable attitude, willingness to think, work, self reflect.  That my role is to challenge and question and help reflection to occur.  I want to encourage free thinking.  As just copying wouldn't require a mentor.

My feeling is that we often go into things with an expectation and mentees tend to want some magical bullet list of action points that will guarantee success.  I think if you were in manufacturing, that thinking might work better.  When you are working with people in the private sector, in a country where people are used to getting what you do for "free" (taxes), that's a totally different ball game.  Whatever happened to just doing a great job and the success will follow idea?

I tend to zero in on a person's motivation as I assume that because they managed to pass their exams, they are competent in what they have been trained to do.  Only 1 so far have asked me specific technical questions.  Peoples' actions follow their motivations -- Sometimes people don't dig hard enough at it to learn why they do what they do.

As an aside, what has also surprised me was the style of language used.  A couple were quite casual, in person as well as via email.  I'm not here to become their best friend and hold their hand.  I'm here to help.

So where are they now?

The first one didn't really want to be mentored.  He wanted confirmation that his chosen approach was right.  He wanted to choose someone he thought was successful to emulate and join with long term.  He didn't choose the right person and fell for the fast talking, flashy type.  It wasn't a great move and it was done way too soon, at a time when you really don't know what you don't know yet.  The offer happened during our time together and while I did break it down with him and told him why it wouldn't be something I would sign up for, he went for it anyways.

That was over 8 years ago and currently he is even more in debt and locked into an healthy situation, working more hours than before.  Doesn't feel he has the strength to leave and "start over" again.  A shame as he is a hard worker.  That I can say for sure.  He is reliable, committed and will be there.  But because he isn't a leader and hates confrontation (even minor stuff), he can be easily taken advantage of.  For someone who was a varsity athlete, I expected him to be able to stand up for himself better.  We lost touch a number of years ago.

The second one was very high energy, hyper even, person who was an awkward match for me as I find it difficult work with and to be around people who exhibit borderline ADHD traits.  I like steady, calm, collected.  Even to this day, she cannot be described as such.  But that isn't necessary a barrier to success as she will "attract" like and she has.

Out of the bunch, she has done the best financially, purchased commercial real estate and has built up a good name for herself.  What she needed guidance with was work life balance.  Because she tends to function at the extreme ends of things, she burnt herself out.  And the physical recovery has taken almost 2 years.  She is finally realizing that you really cannot sprint full out your entire life.  Admitting to the existence of limits has been the most difficult thing she has done.  But she is in a way better place personally and professionally because of it. 

The third one was also high energy, cut from the same cloth as number two.  The aspect she needed help with was actually money management.  A particularly weak area for her.  Continues today.  I say needed because she resisted for years and have squandered a lot of money with unconscious spending.  She too has done well professionally but has realized she doesn't wish to continue for much longer as she isn't enjoying it.  But because of the level of debt, she has no real choice.

Though recently she seemed to have turned a corner and has finally realized there is no substitute for the act of just saving.   So with her high earning years behind her, the timing of this realization is not the best, but at least she is starting.

The fourth one is still a work in progress.  She is hung up on wanting the "good life" and still believes just showing up is enough.  It isn't.  You do have to work and put in your time.  There are also some deep insecurity issues.  After 5 years, frustration and mounting debt has set in.  So has training for another career in the public sector which has amounted to even more debt.  Already there has been complaints about the new career's work schedule!  She wants my life without having to work for it.  What do you do with that?? 

This fifth one shows well on paper.  In fact, they all did.  Very dynamic write ups.  High achievers in their own way.  But in person has been something else.  I mean, we all have our particular issues and hang ups.  I certainly do.  But I feel attitude makes a big difference.  Being that this is a mentorship opportunity, an open mind, I feel is crucial.  It's not like I don't understand the immediate concerns of a new grad, graduating with gigantic student loans.  But if you've already made up your mind, then why sign up to be mentored?

I think I'm supposed to meet up with #5 today.  Haven't received a confirmation yet which isn't the best start to a new relationship.  We'll see how it shakes out.


  1. Well done for giving it another go. We have a mentoring programme at my work. The potential givers outnumber the potential receiver about 4 to 1. That tells me too much about the younger staff members. I am happy to help on an informal basis but I don't think I am made for such things.

    1. That's interesting. I don't know what the stats are with this program. Would be neat to learn our ratio too.

      He did end up confirming so we have officially started. So far he seems unsure which is understandable. I can work with that -- Much easier than arrogance. Think I might have overwhelmed him a bit. We'll get used to each other in time.

  2. I never managed to figure out exactly what your profession is - (great job if you are trying to be discreet :-)!) In my profession ( health care direct provider ) new grads are being brainwashed in school about their future social importance, money making abilities, self worth etc. The truth is, the amount you have to pay for medical/dental/chiropractic/physiotherapy schools etc is ridiculous. There was just one professor ( elderly gentleman) who ever said : " Do not go out and buy a new car or a 500k house ( that was 13 years ago - now 1 million) after you graduate. pay your debt, establish a cash flow and only then go for it". Back then I didn't realize exactly what he meant - I was just a stressed out immigrant scared to death of debt - no need of this advice, right? But years later, I understood what lifestyle inflation is and it made more sense in context. Very wise man. Organized mentoring in general is a pretty "rewardless" job for the mentor. I wonder how much is the satisfaction rate re mentees. From a professional aspect, mentoring is a question of matching philosophies between the two. Good luck with it!

    1. That's crazy news to me -- Grads being pumped up like that. What's there to gain by the school doing that?

      Too soon to tell yet if our philosophies match well. To be honest, I'm not sure what reward I would be looking for in mentoring. The various personalities I've dealt with have probably taught me more about human psychology more than anything else.

  3. I'm certain you have much to offer, although your third paragraph dismissal of such was hilarious and made me literally laugh out loud while reading it. On a more serious note, maybe you should make it clear to them up front that change and growth can only occur with an open mind? Easier said than done, I suppose...

    1. Thanks for your vote of confidence. It was an honest response! It's difficult for me to get my head around believing I have something to offer but not actually succeeding in reaching that person. I know it is a 2 way street but it still feels like failure to me even though I know I cannot want more for someone than they want for themselves.

      This program is actually quite structured, with formal agreements (where I did get to write out my expectations), webinars, timely assessments, monthly bulletins etc. Most of what I've been given to read so far has been very common sense (to me) but does establish a needed base to start from.

      I feel a bit jaded from my previous experiences (some still ongoing) so I think I came across a bit strong yesterday. Will need to keep a check on it as it isn't fair to him since he doesn't know about all that history.