Confusing “mentoring” with “advising”


One of my mentees alerted me to the article on TechCrunch Facebook is testing a feature for mentorships between users by Ingrid Lunden. She writes:

TechCrunch has learned that Facebook is testing a way to use its social network to link up users who are looking for mentorships, either as mentors or mentees.

There are basically two types of mentoring, as I’ve written previously, career mentoring – where a more senior person in a company advises and guides a more junior person to help them climb the career ladder, and entrepreneurial mentoring, where experienced founders provide advice, guidance, and feedback to unexperienced or less experienced founders.

It appears that both LinkedIn and Facebook are focused on career mentoring, but unfortunately they are diluting the meaning of mentoring.

The dictionary defines mentor the noun as an experienced and trusted advisor and mentor the verb as to advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague).

The key element in mentoring, whether for career advancement or developing a startup is trust. In the entrepreneurial world where I mentor, organizations vet their mentors to assure that they can provide trusted, unbiased advice. This is one of the most basic tenets of the MIT Venture Mentoring Service and I found this element of trust by affiliation to be true of TechStars, MIT Sandbox, and the Social Innovation Forum – all organizations where I have mentored.

Are we to assume that because someone is on Facebook that we should trust them? That idea seems ludicrous given the recent scandals over fake accounts, fake news, and other violations of trust.

So whatever mentoring service Facebook ends up launching, whether for career guidance or startup guidance, be very wary of connecting with strangers just because Facebook’s algorithms matches you up based on interests. location, or friends of friends.

Ingrid Lunden provides no indication that Facebook will vet their recommended mentors, who in reality will be much more like advisors than true mentors.  Virtually anyone can provide advice and in this day and age they do!

So if you are looking for a mentor look first to a trusted organization, whether it be an academic program like MIT VMS, an incubator like MassChallenge or a well known and successful accelerator like TechStars. What differentiates mentors from advisors is vetted expertise and experience relevant to the mentee’s needs. And while expertise and experience are necessary, they are not sufficient. Your mentor must be trustworthy!



Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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