4 mentoring myths that cause confusion

Mentoring myths that need examinationsmart woman

Much has been written about the giving and receiving of advice so it’s hardly surprising that a number of mentoring myths have been created. From Cicero to Joan Rivers to Oscar Wilde to Khalil Gibran. Statesmen, philosophers, playwrights, thinkers, business people,  celebrities and politicians all have produced oft quoted, but equally confusing and conflicting sound bites which are then applied globally.  

So not unsurprisingly “advice giving” is also associated with a great deal of cynicism:

Don’t follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise. Joan Rivers

Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.  Benjamin Franklin
I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes. Edna St. Vincent Millay
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. Oscar Wilde
Looking for a mentor? Check out the 3Plus options

4  mentoring myths that create misunderstandings

mentoring myths

If the value of mentoring is queried generally, then the value of mentoring for women is scrutinized in some circles even more closely.  Mentoring myths become even more widespread. It’s time to look at these sweeping generalizations which don’t apply to all of us. They not only cause confusion but can end up trapping us.

#1 It’s confused with networking

A recent post on LinkedIn Pulse by Dr. Anju Jain, Mentoring is Overrated suggests that mentoring is:

“Personally, it is akin to socializing with a purpose, nothing more”

Now isn’t that networking?  The mentoring process if carried out properly will have specific objectives related to the personal development needs of the mentee and  ideally linked to the requirements of the organisation. If it becomes socializing with a purpose something has gone wrong somewhere, usually at the expectation and then training point. The notion that a mentor is a warm and fuzzy BFF is one that is widely misconstrued.

Pru Merrick, Director of a London-based design agency wrote:

 Although it’s helpful to like your mentor, for an effective mentor mentee relationship, it’s not even necessary. It’s important that you respect her, she treats you with integrity and supports you to meet your goals.

Read: Why your mentor is not your BFF 

#2 Women don’t need fixing

Some commentators say that women “don’t need fixing.” This is a sort of “red white and blue Brexit” statement.  It means nothing. It is centred around a very valid objection against trying to shoehorn women into male coded cultures. The reality is that both men and women need to create a gender balanced culture and all of us (unless we are exceptional) need competence training as part of a continuous learning process to achieve that.

Some women need to enhance their skills and so do some men. We will have different needs. No one needs fixing. When men mentor women they need to be trained in unconscious bias management and given an understanding exactly what women experience in the workplace. They are frequently very unaware. As there are a growing number of women are in organisations at all levels, men need to become aware of the differences in communication style for some women. No, not all. Equally women need to understand how some men communicate and deal with issues. Not all men are alpha males and not all women fit into soft pink skill gender stereotype boxes. We have get out of rigid and out dated thinking driven by unconscious bias about how men and women are supposed to behave. There is a spectrum of behaviour and both men and women lie on it.

So, mentors can be very helpful to many women to grow their skills.

#3 Women are over mentored

Others say that women are over mentored and under sponsored.Tweet this Once again this is a vague generalization which doesn’t say much.  It might be the case in international conglomerates where women are doing everything right, but still not getting the top jobs. But most women don’t work for them. 90% of European businesses are SMEs, which provide less support for either training or mentoring. So there is indeed a mentoring need for many women.

Read: 7 reasons why mentoring programmes fail  

#4 Mentoring is for hi-po women

Many organisations allocate a mentor to women who have been identified as having long-term potential. The knowledge, advice, and resources a mentor shares will depend on the format and goals of a specific mentoring relationship. Experience has led me to believe that most people (although there are exceptions) tend to seek support when they have a problem and this is the moment that organisations allocate support. By that time it is quite often too late. This is not to say that there is no place  for situational mentoring. It can be a very effective form of support, although this is frequently confused with coaching.

Read: How to find a mentor

Find a mentor that works for you

Find a mentor that works for you

But probably the best time to look for a mentor (or mentors) is when everything is going well and at a more junior level. Many women with the right level of support should be encouraged to look for a mentor as early as possible in their careers. Very often women are challenged by issues not directly related to job or career performance, but broader situation related to workplace situations and office politics.

Read: Why women leave it’s not complicated 

If a company won’t provide one then,  I would recommend that all women have their own “Board of Advisors” to support them on an ad hoc, but ongoing basis. They will come from different sectors or parts of a professional or personal life and will change during the course of a professional life time. That way the focus can be the future rather than on the challenges of the present.

So if you are even asking when is the right time is for a  mentor –  I would say right now. Look for a mentor when you think you don’t need one.Tweet this And the earlier the better.  But please but never let anyone make you think  you need fixing.


Looking for mentoring or coaching services? Contact 3Plus now!



3Plus, Career, Mentoring, Personal & Professional Development
Web | Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.

Leave a Reply

Found that interesting? Learn more about our services
Individual services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
more info
Corporate services
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
more info
Upcoming events
Currently we don't have upcoming events
Download and listen free podcasts
Why all women need a strong LinkedIn profile
Free Download

Data on women on LinkedIn has always been hard to get and analyse, but some new information sheds light on how women use the platform differently to their male colleagues and what those differences mean. You will find out why you need a strong LinkedIn profile.

It has always been difficult to identify women on LinkedIn because it’s not possible to do a search based on gender. Any efforts to track women on LinkedIn specifically, involve complex Boolean strings involving pronouns or searching via women’s clubs, universities and networks. So any analysis has always been more anecdotal around perceptions and personal experience, rather than data based. However research from 2017  using LinkedIn member profile data for members in the United States over the past 12 months. Published on the LinkedIn blog it supports pretty much what we already know about women on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn  is the main professional data base used globally by hiring managers and recruiters, yet women continue to engage less than their male colleagues, putting themselves at a distinct professional disadvantage. Now we have some facts and figures as well as tips and tricks to persuade  you to up your game. All women have to have a strong LinkedIn profile. No ifs and buts.


How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters
Free Download

In this power coaching podcast, we’re going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple times a week by active job seekers and passive candidates.

How can I get noticed by head hunters and recruiters and connect with them?

In this short power coaching podcast Dorothy Dalton shares some tips and tricks to make sure that you are always on the radar of the recruitment and search specialists who can be most helpful to you. With extensive experience in executive search and corporate HR Dorothy has placed, coached and trained thousands of men and women to career success. As a career coach she has a deep understanding of the job search market and what job seekers need to do to position themselves to they are easily found.

As CEO of 3Plus she also has deep experience of the challenges women face in the workplace. Sadly because women tend not to create career strategies they can be vulnerable when it comes to dealing with change. Regular transitions become career crises. In this short session you will learn some simple tips and tricks to make sure you are on the radar of key recruitment specialists in your sector, geography or function.  It’s not rocket science.





One of the most puzzling things about working in executive search is that people and I say this reluctantly particularly women fail to plan ahead. You’ve heard me say before that only 5% of women have a career strategy. This means that they are not prepared for any emergencies until they become a crisis.


Goal setting tips to boost your career
Free Download

The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and the upcoming work week. So how do you get to a place where you look forward to a new week of doing what satisfies you? You’ll have to either learn to love your current role, or make a commitment to pursue your dream job. Use these goal setting tips to help you get to where you want to be.

Some women choose the latter, and to do so you’ll have to set career goals to get where you want to be. So make sure you have a detailed plan on how to land a job that you will tick all the boxes.

The majority of women choose to stay in their own organizations and even then you still need to have goals, not just KPis set by your manager. But even if you do see your career developing within your current business it’s still important to set goals.

Many women struggle with career planning and creating a career strategy which can lead to problems. This makes them vulnerable to and sort of challenge which can moprh into a full blown career crisis. Some simple steps to plan and prepare can help avoid this.

Take a look at these goal setting tips to help boost your career and set you on the right path.

Lewis Carroll  said

If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”

Research shows that only about 5% of women create career goals and a career strategy. This can have a negative impact on your career progression. It means you are reactive not proactive and career glitches can morph into full blown crises. It puts women at a clear disadvantage to men.

Learn these simple goal setting tips to boost your career and protect and prepare you for all eventualities. If these goal setting tips make you think that you could use some further help,  contact us immediately.


When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage
Free Download

There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about  female rivalry and competition between women. Some of it makes sense and some of it is confusing. Organizations are pyramids with fewer roles at the top than at the bottom. It is inevitable that at some level, as more and more women are in the talent pipeline, at some point they will be in competition with other women.

Many would say that women aren’t competitive. I would suggest re-framing that. I think it’s more accurate to say they are not as competitive in the workplace as men. We have also been made to feel guilty about being competitive. We need to get over that.  Here are the reasons:

  1. The male nature of corporate culture makes it a disincentive to compete
  2. Women don’t want to compete because  prescribed male goals are not attractive enough for them. “Work 14 hour days, not see my partner or family … get sick.. die..no thanks.. I’ll pass”
  3. Women don’t know how to compete in the workplace. They are new arrivals on the corporate competition scene and lack practise.
  4. Women experience gender blow back when they do compete, from both men and women
  5. Women have been raised to think that competing with other women is not empowering them. As more women enter the talent pipeline that is just nonsense.

Learn some insights from Annabel Kaye, Employment Law Expert about how it’s OK to be competitive and the danger zone when it can turn into sabotage. Understand the benefits of mutual support and how all women can profit from having strong strategic allies, role models and mentors.