Saturday, April 19, 2008


Many years ago, I sat down with a Colonel for an official mentoring session. We didn't work in the same office and didn't really know each other, but I'd been assigned as his mentee. I showed him my career plan, and I'll never forget his advice:

"I don't see a Pentagon assignment here. You really should go to the Pentagon. It would be terrible for your family but great for your career, so you should do it."

I almost got up and walked out right there, Colonel or not. In my opinion, terrible for my family + good for my career = Don't do it.

And that's the day I began to formulate my opinion of what mentoring should be like. I've concluded that a good mentoring relationship is organic, not assigned. It develops naturally, and can't be mandated. Mentoring is about chemistry, mutual respect, listening, and shared values. The guy who I'd been assigned to did not have an appreciation for my values, interests or priorities. He did not ask questions - he tried (and failed) to convince me to conform to his own formula for professional success.

And now, here I am, getting ready to head off to a Pentagon assignment. His observation rang in my ears when I got the offer a few weeks ago. But this particular job seems quite family friendly and flexible, on everything from work hours to my reporting date. So, we'll see...

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