This week, I gave up being the mentor of a fresh-out-of-college, new-to-the-workforce project collaborator.
I like mentoring. I like helping people. I like preventing other people from making the same crappy mistakes I've made. My default state is to help, often to the detriment of my own health and peace of mind.
So, you can imagine how much I hated to give up.
I hated to feel like I had failed. I hated to feel like I had failed this kid. "Kid." He's not a kid, I know that. He's a man, but he's young, and green, and full of the gush enthusiasm I no longer have and want to recapture in some small way.
But, I had to give up when I realized I had made the biggest mistake in mentoring, The colossal mistake of mentoring that I suspect all good mentors make once, and learn not to make again.
I told him I would be his mentor.
I didn't give him a choice. I didn't ask him if he wanted me as his mentor. I didn't wait for him to come to me. I told him.
And that added me to the increasing number of authority figures for him on the project.
It didn't matter that I had good intentions. It didn't matter that my advice was sound. It didn't matter that if I had helped him in some way, because we didn't have a mentor/mentee relationship. Mentoring is a two way relationship, both parties have to have the same understanding of what the relationship is. The mentor has to want to help, the mentee has to be willing to receive the help. Without that understanding, the relationship will never work.
So, I've stepped away.
I believe I'll have the opportunity again. I hope I do better the next time.