3 Mistakes that Make Mentoring a Waste of Time

Women are not only missing critical relationships such as allies, mentors, and sponsors in their careers. You also are not managing those relationships so that you get the most benefit from them.

A mentor is one of the most important strategic assets in your career advancement toolkit. Yet, you don’t treat your mentoring relationships that way.  Mentors can help you understand the types of skills and experiences you’ll need in order to progress in your career, and can help you grow in those areas.  They also can help you understand how things really work in the office and help you avoid landmines in your career. 

I hear women speak about how “a mentor didn’t work out” or “the mentoring meetings were a waste of time.” Be aware of these 3 common mistakes women often make, and take these steps to avoid them:

Mistake #1: Women don’t manage the mentoring relationship and fail to get the outcomes you’re looking to achieve. 

Most women enter a mentoring relationship expecting the mentor to drive the agenda and progress. This often results in disappointment and sometimes strained relationships because the process is floundering along.

You are accountable for your mentoring relationships and outcomes. 

A good mentoring experience doesn’t just happen without planning and care throughout the process.  There are four stages of a mentoring relationship that will guide your progress:





Each stage has its own set of objectives and tasks.  You must take the responsibility to consistently manage through each of the four stages. 

For more details on the success factors and implementation for each stage of the mentoring process, check out the complete FuelForward Mentoring Guide

Mistake #2: Women Select the Wrong Mentor

Selecting the wrong mentor can be a waste of everybody’s time, as well as detrimental to your self-confidence and career progression. 

When I worked for Humana in the early stages of my career, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Management Intern Program.  Though that program came with a formal mentoring relationship, being matched with the right mentor was just as important as selecting my own mentors in other stages of my career. I learned that being thoughtful about and carefully outlining my needs was one of the most important first steps to a successful mentoring relationship.

Before selecting a mentor, know what your development areas are and what skills you need to build for your career path. Seek a mentor who is knowledgeable about the skills you need to enhance or roles you’re considering on your career path. Find someone who has common personal or professional interests and aligns with your expertise.

Connect with the right mentor, someone you can benefit from. Don’t only select someone who’s deemed “important” as your mentor. This will backfire on you.

Mistake #3: Women allow the mentoring relationship to lose momentum

Trying to juggle all the responsibilities of work and home often take priority for women.  Actions that most benefit you and your career get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Think about the times you’ve canceled a scheduled meeting with your mentor. Or, if your mentor is busy, weeks pass before you get the session back on your calendars.

You lose momentum in your mentoring progress when you minimize its importance. If it doesn’t seem important to you, it will be less important to your mentor, and harder to keep the sessions going.

Set aside time to invest in your career. You are worth it!  And, you add greater value to your organization when you are growing and advancing.

Step Up to Own It

Women will continue to be left behind until you step up to take more ownership in gaining access to and benefiting from important relationships and opportunities,  Take a deep breath, and make it a priority to take the first steps of learning more about these relationships and engaging with a mentor who can be instrumental in helping you Fuel Your Career Forward.

Download our free guide Getting the most from your mentor and take your first steps to Fuel Your Career Forward.


She’s a woman on a mission, prepped and ready to help you create resilient leaders and a workplace that is poised to succeed. Having weathered her fair share of corporate and career crises of all sizes, Vivian Blade MBA, MBB, PMP, is a global leadership expert and thought leader who equips leaders with the resilience that inspires teams to recover quickly in the face of ongoing disruption and thrive in spite of insurmountable odds.

Vivian empowers leaders and organizations as a frequent keynote speaker for association conferences and in delivering transformative leadership development programs, executive coaching and consulting for corporations.

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