When Mentoring Relationships Change

If you plan on progressing in your career, it helps to have a mentor. Having someone who can share their experiences with you offers one of your best learning opportunities. Someone who is senior in position and in their years of experience can offer a lot of useful guidance.

But once you get promoted, that relationship can change, especially if your mentor is in the same organization.

Someone who has more years of experience than you will always have more years of experience than you, but someone who is in a senior role may not always be in a senior role. How do things change when your mentor becomes a peer?

It’s possible that nothing changes. Depending on the organization, you may not have a different working relationship than you did before. If your mentor is in another function or a different market then you may not see much change. They can still be an “outsider” who still understands enough about your situation to be able to offer useful, objective guidance.

On the other hand, your working relationship may change a lot. It may be the case that, rather than you relying upon them for advice, they may now rely upon you for funding, sales, people, or other resources or support. You may now be competing for budgets or people in a way that you weren’t before. The relationship may change from junior-to-senior to peer-to-peer.

That doesn’t mean the mentoring relationship has to go away. Peer-to-peer coaching is a valuable part of any organization’s development. You can still turn to them for advice, but perhaps rather than emphasizing daily operations you might focus more on career paths and dealing with future changes.

It may be the case, though, that the mentoring stops. It could be the case that you want to reach out to someone even more senior as your regular go-to person. Your mentor may feel less comfortable advising a peer than they did advising a junior person. If you find yourself in competition for resources, or perhaps even competing with each other for future promotions, then don’t be surprised if they prefer to stop helping you out.

Few relationships last forever, and while mentoring relationships can be very valuable, it’s not like they are marriages. Mentoring happens when someone needs advice, and someone wants to give it, and if either of those perspectives changes, the relationship changes too. Take advantage of mentoring when it is available, but also be ready to move on when it’s time to do so.