A Gap in Career Mentorship

Nobody told us how mentorship works in an age of multi-company, multi-career employment.

We used to have a practice model in apprenticeships, with advancement in a single company following a rigid corporate hierarchy. Mentorship still wasn’t easy, but at least the path was well-defined and the stability of our surrounding organization simplified the search and encouraged long-term relationships. If we are indeed all self-contained startups, then we seem to be missing the individual’s version of Y-Combinator.

It does make me a little jealous that this is apparently less of an issue for top executives. Most business books and stories I’ve read mention how executives talk to other execs from other companies, hire coaches, and find a way to embed themselves into this network of powerful people who help each other improve. Admittedly, this conclusion may just be confusing the cause with the effect and suffering from selection bias; finding and retaining mentors may be necessary to achieve top performance.

Though have been a handful of promising ideas, the development of accompanying processes and systems and support networks for works in our new reality of job and role fluidity has been lagging. Community advice – virtual or otherwise – ends up sounding anecdotal and generic, and the most powerful forms of mentorship require lasting relationships and a thorough understanding of the mentee.

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