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Behind some of the most successful leaders are mentors who have helped to shape their careers and to encourage them to succeed. While mentoring programs can definitely have their positive outcomes, there are also a few downsides. As you endeavor to take your career and your leadership skills to the next level, consider cons such as choosing the wrong mentor and outgrowing your mentor, as well as pros such as getting honest feedback and a champion in your corner.
Pro: Having a Champion
With a mentor, you have an important, experienced person in your corner. That's perhaps the biggest pro of entering into the mentor relationship: the ability to get answers to your questions and to have someone to cheer you on. Mentors also provide a different type of perspective than you'd get by consulting only your peers, suggests business engagement leader Ken Perlman in an article in Forbes. Whether she works in the same company as you or not, your mentor may be able to recommend you for promotions or advancement in your industry, and can provide you with a roster of contacts that may have taken them years to assemble.
Con: Outgrowing Your Mentor
In some cases, your champion will do such a good job of mentoring you and providing you with opportunities, that eventually you'll be ready to fly the nest. That can be a problem, however, if your mentor is not ready for you to leave. He may have taken the time to develop you into his protege, without thinking that you'd ever use those skills in a setting beyond the current one. Outgrowing your mentor can be a delicate matter that requires good communication and even some humility and understanding on the part of your mentor.
Pro: Honest Feedback and Accountability
Your mentor may feel personally responsible for your successes and failures, and as such, she'll likely be there to give you feedback -- whether good or bad. Your mentor may be there to offer advice or assessments of your performance in certain projects, and may also keep her finger on the pulse of your reputation from an outsider's perspective. Your mentor may also help to keep you accountable and ensure you're following through on responsibilities or taking the necessary steps to continue to advance your career.
Con: Choosing the Wrong Mentor
Entrepreneur Wayne Sutton recommends finding a mentor "organically," meaning you let a relationship grow with someone who you naturally look up to. This can help cut down on another con of mentorship: choosing the wrong one. If you don't select a mentor who shares your values, who doesn't have the drive to actually help you, or someone with whom you just don't have good chemistry, you may find you have someone who's standing in your way instead of someone who's there to prop you up.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.