How Do You Break Up with a Mentor?
Searching for a mentor often takes a lot of energy. You don’t connect with just anyone, and you want to find the right person to help you reach your goals and get you to the next rung on your career ladder. But, as you grow and gain perspective, you may find that the advice you receive isn’t landing as well anymore.
If you find yourself disagreeing or even resenting your mentor’s influence, it may be time for things to change. Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & Regular podcast about outgrowing our financial heroes, and read below for some things to consider as you move away from an adviser relationship.
Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations.
For some people, even thinking about ending a relationship can feel disloyal and painful. After all, this person took time out of their busy schedule to help you solve your problems. But not all endings have to go badly or be tumultuous.
Remember that a mentorship is designed to be temporary. While it’s great if you develop a friendship that lasts with this person, mentors know that you will be moving forward with your career and that there should come a time when you no longer need them. In fact, they may have even seen your growth well before you did and are just waiting for you to come to the same conclusion.
When it’s time to move on, consider the following tips to end your mentorship on the best note possible, and hopefully maintain a warm and friendly relationship.
Evaluate the situation.
If you’ve had conflict with your mentor, or are starting to resent their advice, it’s possible that you both need a break to recharge and reevaluate. Taking some time away to reflect can help both of you determine if the relationship is still beneficial.
If you’ve decided that you’d like to end the mentorship, remember that the goal is to do it on the best terms possible. You may feel that they did something wrong, or didn’t actually help you, but ending things on a positive note could help you in the future with potential connections or opportunities.
Don’t stay out of obligation.
When someone has been helpful, or we grow to care about them, ending our association can feel like a betrayal. A good mentor expects you to move on with your career and should be encouraging you to try new opportunities and take calculated risks. Their role is to help you move forward—if that isn’t happening, then it’s definitely time to move on.
Calmly consider the pros and cons and reach a decision based on facts, not feelings.
Hopefully you’ve been able to have a dialogue with your mentor about what you’re experiencing and have concluded together that it’s time for the relationship to end.
If your mentor seems oblivious to the problems, then ask them for a meeting, either on the phone or in person, and explain the ways they’ve helped you to grow and that you’re ready to pursue new opportunities. This might be awkward, but hopefully you’ve developed enough trust in each other to keep the conversation calm and polite.
Use direct and clear language.
At your final meeting, make sure you use direct and kind language. While expressing ourselves can be difficult, you’re actually doing your mentor a disservice if you continue a relationship that is no longer serving you.
Hopefully the decision to stop meeting is mutual, but if not, keep your language as direct and professional as possible. Try to keep the conversation to how your needs have changed, and avoid blaming your mentor for not doing enough for you.
Make sure you listen to their point of view, and give your mentor the opportunity to share their perspective. While it may not change your mind, listening to them could offer some insight into the issues you may face in the future or potential problems to watch out for.
Remember to express gratitude for your mentor’s time and assistance. While the relationship is ending, you want to make sure you leave on a good note since you never know when your paths may cross again.
Thank your mentor for their help, and provide detailed examples of how their advice helped you overcome a challenge or gain new perspective. If it feels right, spend a little time talking about your plans for the future and any problems that your mentor may see coming down the road.
Stay in touch.
Ending a relationship with your mentor can feel like a hard stop, but in reality, you should think of it as more of a pause. While life circumstances may never have the two of you formally meeting again, you should always leave the door open for future opportunities. Remember that while a mentor/mentee relationship may not be intended to last forever, gaining a friend out of the situation can be priceless.
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