A break up with your mentor may sound harsh, but it isn’t. As I mentioned in an earlier post, mentor relationships aren’t meant to be forever. If you are developing purposeful mentor relationships and giving a bit of structure to them, there should also be a structure in place for knowing when it is time to wrap up the ‘formal’ part of your agreement. We know this person has become important to you over time, and they certainly don’t drop out of your life—it may just be time to free up your time (and theirs) for a more beneficial relationship for your next challenge.
Most of us, however, don’t implement that structure to transition away from a formal relationship. So how do we know when it is time to move on?
Three Signs it is Time to Break Up With Your Mentor
You have a regularly scheduled meeting, but you dread going every month.
This might be for a variety of reasons—you have nothing to talk about or they have nothing to help with. If you are leaving every meeting feeling like it was a waste of time, it’s time to re-evaluate. Why did you seek them out in the first place? What was the most impactful item they assisted with? If those parts of your personal or professional life have passed, you may be doing both parties a disservice by keeping that regular commitment on the books.
Each time you talk, you end up feeling worse than when you started.
When you look for a new company, you pay attention to cultural fit. When taking on a mentor, you should be doing the same—looking for a relational fit. We all need people to push us, tell us how it is, and complement our weaknesses with their own strengths. Of course this is going to create a bit of discomfort, but if you aren’t able to communicate in a way that motivates you, you may not have found the right person to mentor you. Tough love only works if it lights a fire under you, not puts one out.
You (or your mentor) has already checked out.
You may have passed the point of a mutually-beneficial relationship months ago, but haven’t known exactly how to communicate that to your mentor. We get it—it can be uncomfortable. But if you, or they, have already moved on, you’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending. You might end up giving each other busy work and feeling resentful. That time can be channeled more productively into letting your mentor know how much you appreciate the investment they have made in you—a nice note or a parting lunch can go a long way. You can also browse through your LinkedIn connections and consider who else your mentor might be able to help grow, or who can help grow your mentor. Making thoughtful connections is always valuable, regardless of the outcome.
We know that your mentor has been a huge part of your life, making you feel calm in times of crisis and challenging you in times of stagnation. Remember that a break up with your mentor doesn’t mean the end of any relationship. Unlike most break ups in life—you really can stay friends.
At Gild, we love our formal mentors, and we love the informal relationships that develop us as well. If you’d like to create a stronger relationship-based culture in your organization, our Fostering Mentorship & Relationships workshop might be perfect for you.