Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Words we misuse

The Lexicon of Mentoring and Networking

Mentoring and networking are 2 halves of the same coin. Networking being the active building of community and mentoring being the individual seeking of counsel/advice from that community.

Mentoring and networking are not a science; they are an art. You can have checklists, invitations and plans but it comes down to 2 basic things - relationships and words.

It drives me crazy that some organizations talk about mentoring and networking without defining what they mean AND using the 2 words interchangeably.

With interest in these topics on the rise, we run the risk of losing all meaning - much like the over-hyped word ‘green’ or the or the nonsensical, amorphous understanding of ‘cool’.

Just look at some of the words we use:
* intern / internship
* apprentice / apprenticeship
* placement
* protégée
* mentoree
* coach
* mentor
* advisor
* manage / manager
* network
* relationship management

Would you call a chicken a turkey?

So let me just make the first of many distinctions for my purposes :-)

Apprenticing: Trump has made this famous - you find a successful sponsor who will teach you everything they know and you follow in their footsteps till you either have their job or have enough ‘whatever’ to build your own path. It’s a method that has been around for hundreds of years and has produced some great artists and thinkers.
I lump in internships and placements here.

Mentoring: as I see it, mentoring puts the work back on the mentoree. You own your actions and decisions at all times. You choose -or don’t - to take the advice or challenges given to you by your mentor. You’re answerable to no one but yourself on your progress. It’s like an independent study.

And managing and coaching are what your supervisor does.

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