Do you really need a mentor?


(Photo via Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

One of the obstacles to doing good we frequently hear from you, our community, is not having a mentor; that teacher, guide, coach (sometimes friend) who helps you navigate challenges, introduces you to new people, and continually encourages. In short, a person you can trust and who you know has your back.

Sure, it can be great to have a mentor sometimes. But do you really need one? Here are three people who would argue no:

Nancy Lublin, Dress for Success founder and current CEO of Do Something, in this MAKERS video says:

I have lots of people who I look to for various things. And they’re friends, but actually I think right now I’m getting inspiration from the people I work with, which sounds totally corny but I’m learning everyday. Especially being at a technology not-for-profit that works with young people. My COO pushes me all the time. She is 29, and a foot taller than I am, and bolder and smarter and I learn from her everyday. Everybody, at all levels of the organization, I am learning from them and  being kept on my toes and having to keep up. It’s a great feeling.

Our very own Allison Jones on her personal blog agrees:

The truth is, I have never really had the desire to seek out one person to be my sounding board and long-term coach; it’s a lot of work on my end, on their end, and is a little too hierarchical for my taste. Instead, I prefer to connect with people when I have a problem I need help solving.

I do this because I believe that when you start from a place of wanting to solve a problem—instead of wanting to follow a particular person—you open more doors. People younger than you, older than you, people in different fields and professions, people in different communities, become problem solvers. You are also more deliberate and focused about what you need, which makes it much easier for people to actually help you (I am struggling with creating a strategy for X vs. I don’t know what I’m doing about anything).

Finally, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on Quora echoes the sentiment:

I think the whole concept is fraught with peril.

I meet a lot of young people who waste a lot of time worrying about finding a magical mentor who will help them to greatness. But greatness will only come from within you. Yes, you need to learn from others, but seek wisdom from many.

What do you think? Have you benefited from “the one”? Or are you a believer in spreading the mentoring love?

Tags: ,

Comments (2)

  1. kambiz tavana writes:
    May 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    You definitely need a mentor. It is different from people who inspire you to do things but you need a mentor in every filed to tell you what path is better to take, how to overcome potential dangers and threats and to help you simply not to re-do things which have been done before. In other words, you need a mentor+team leader.

  2. Theresa writes:
    May 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I am one for mentor. most if not all , the good jobs that I had was because of a reliable mentor , I did so well in that job or position. A mentor is a person that knows things that would take us a long time or even years of trial and error to find the right way.Some employers do not give you the necessary training to learn the job well so you waste time in trial and error. you would think the employers recognize this and save money by having proper training and suffcient time.

Sorry, commenting is now closed on Idealists in Action.
Check out our new blog and join the Idealist Network conversation on the Connector Hub.

Like what you're reading?

Subscribe and get fresh daily updates from Idealists in Action.