Being a mentor isn’t easy – in fact, it’s one of the most difficult roles you’ll ever have. You need to set aside time and energy, remain enthusiastic, and use your judgment as much as possible. But if you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume you’re already aware of that fact. What you might not be prepared for are mistakes that can happen despite your best intentions. Here are five of the biggest ones for mentors–and how to avoid them:

The word ‘no’

Mentors should not say ‘yes’ to mentees too often. You might think this is counterintuitive, but if you’re saying yes all the time, your mentee will stop learning from their mistakes. They’ll get stuck in a rut where they don’t try new things and end up failing more often than they succeed.

Mentors also shouldn’t say ‘no’ too often either, as this can lead to an uncomfortable relationship dynamic between mentor and mentee. The best practice is for mentors to be very deliberate with their words—and when they do speak up it should be with intent rather than just being reactive or negative without thinking through how the response will impact their relationship with the other person first

Testing your mentee

Testing your mentee. As a mentor, you don’t have to always be the expert and your mentee doesn’t have to be the novice. Instead, try being a sounding board for your mentee—someone they can bounce ideas off of and who can help them brainstorm solutions. That way, your relationship is more equal, and you’ll both feel like partners in problem-solving rather than teacher-student roles.

Passing the buck

Mentoring is a two-way street. As the mentor, it’s your job to provide guidance and support for your mentee. But if you’re not willing to take responsibility for helping them grow and learn from your experience, then why should they?

As a mentor, you need to be willing to share information about yourself so that your mentee can see how their career path relates back to yours. Your responsibilities don’t end when someone else takes on your role as a guide; instead, the person who replaces you will probably want some advice before they start taking on more responsibility themselves.

Being selfish

It’s a mistake to think that mentoring is about you. Your job as a mentor is to help your mentee reach her goals and gain confidence, not prop up your ego.

Mentors who focus on themselves rather than their mentees can make the process more difficult for everyone involved. If you find yourself falling into this trap, take stock of your motives: are they really in line with what the relationship is meant to be? Are they fostering the growth of your protege? Or are they clouded by selfishness or narcissism? If so, reconsider why you’re taking on this role in the first place and whether it’s worth keeping going down this path.

Sharing too much

As a mentor, you’re likely to have more knowledge and experience than your mentee. But while it could be tempting to share all of that with them, that’s actually not the best way to go about it. The goal of mentoring is not just to pour out all your knowledge—it’s also about encouraging the mentee in their own journey, so they can do even better than you did!

There are many ways this can happen; for example:

  • Sharing too much might make the person feel discouraged because they don’t have the same kind of success as someone who started later in life or had other advantages (such as being born into a family with more money).
  • Being able to ask questions gives you insight into what matters most for that person—and helps them figure out where their strengths lie as well!

Be aware of these mistakes and don’t let them affect your mentor-mentee relationship.

  • Be aware of these mistakes and don’t let them affect your mentor-mentee relationship.

It’s a two-way street, folks! The mentee should be wary of becoming too dependent on their mentor for advice or guidance. This can lead to an unhealthy situation where the student does not learn how to stand on their own two feet. On the flip side, mentors need to remind themselves that they are there as a guide, not a parent figure (though if you’re actually related by blood or marriage, then I guess that’s okay).


I hope that you can take these lessons I have learned and apply them to your own mentorship. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey, and there are plenty of people who can help if things start to go wrong. So don’t feel ashamed to ask for support if it’s needed!

I would like to share one last tip: mentor someone else so that they don’t fall into these traps themselves! This will give you a fresh perspective on mentoring from both sides of the table (or desk).

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