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The Mentor Binge Problem

The Mentor Binge Problem

A friend of mine who recently began a new job confided to me that he already dreads going to work every day. He shrugged off his feelings with the justification that surely, everyone becomes disillusioned with work eventually. Earlier in his career, he saw countless opportunities in front of him; he was convinced that on any given day, he would make a remarkable difference with his company, with his customers, with his CEO or maybe even with the world. The realization that he had lost his passion, commitment and hope for his job made him feel like perhaps he had lost himself altogether.

I got to thinking about this huge decision he made to accept a position with a new company, and I asked him if he had any professional mentors who helped him make this choice. He looked at me like I was the cheesiest cheeseball on the planet. He told me that any mentors he'd ever had were awkward, forced relationships at previous employers and ones he hadn't really maintained.

The reason I asked him this is because I probably wouldn't have ended up at TopGolf - in a job I absolutely love, by the way - without the great advice and support of my mentors throughout the years.

I have 10 mentors. Yes, 10! Some of them aren't formal mentor-mentee relationships, but in my heart and mind, these 10 individuals are my trusted go-to confidantes for every major career crossroads I encounter. Some are my age. Some are much older. Some represent my industry, while others are in no way connected to my field. Each one of them inspires me and knows my values, habits and style (at times, they know these things better than I know them myself).

It was these people who guided me toward each position I have ever accepted and steered me away from every job I have ever declined. How did they know what the best decision for me would be? They couldn't have known. But they were able to make a really good, educated hypothesis based on their continual interactions with me. They understand the types of environments in which I thrive or feel miserable, and they know what truly motivates me beyond any paycheck.

This is why I try really, really hard not to mentor binge.

Mentor bingers are those who have mentors they turn to only in times of crisis, problems or change. That's all well and good - mentors are great for this purpose. However, I encourage all mentor bingers out there to take your relationships to the next level. Allow your mentors to really know you on a more day-to-day basis.

After all, mentors can prevent you from making a bad career decision. They can help you identify when you're headed toward a dead end at a formerly enjoyable job. They can help you solve a problem from a different angle. They can boost you up when all you need is a good pep talk. They can challenge you to open your mind and expand your skills. In other words, a mentor can be your advocate. But to create the very best advocate for you, you must first teach your advocate who you are and where you want to go. This will take time. But it will happen as you regularly and freely share the highs, lows and the in-betweens of your career with your mentors.

I'll never forget the time one of my mentors from the University of Florida, Dr. Kathleen Kelly, changed my mind about an opportunity that eventually turned out to be life-changing. As a sophomore, I had been offered my first paid internship at Deveney Communication in New Orleans. It was undoubtedly an amazing opportunity for me, but I hadn't yet taken any classes for my public relations major, and I had never lived in a big city. Heck, I had never even stepped foot in Louisiana. I went to her office and told her the truth: I was scared. Without hesitation, Dr. Kelly told me I HAD to do it and that I better leave her office right that minute to call Deveney and accept.

I remember her strong reaction surprising me; I had instead expected to sit there in her office, weighing the pros and cons of this decision. Dr. Kelly may not have known it at the time, but I'm the kind of person who, every now and again, just needs a really good push. She gave me exactly what I needed that day. I ended up gaining the experience of a lifetime at Deveney and received many subsequent career opportunities as a result of the things I learned and the people I met there. In a way, working at Deveney was the start of my path toward working at TopGolf. It was also the start of my great relationship with Dr. Kelly, whom I consider one of my greatest professional mentors. She has been an invaluable source of advice, wisdom and friendship. (And I promise this is an unpaid testimonial for the University of Florida and its incredible faculty.)

It goes without saying that staying in regular touch with a mentor or mentors can be a challenge as it isn't typically the most urgent task on our to-do list (except when job hunting). I am 100% guilty of not staying in as good of touch with my mentors as I would like to at times. But make the time. Set a recurring appointment on your calendar weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on what makes sense for you, and touch base with your mentors. Share what's going on in your life and career, and find out what's going on in theirs. Maybe they'll give you the advice you've been needing to hear; or maybe you'll learn or become inspired indirectly from a situation they are facing.

I recently had lunch with one of my mentors in Dallas, and I walked away - as I always do after catching up with him - feeling a renewed sense of passion and gratitude for what I do. Our conversation wasn't supremely remarkable or profound, but it inspired me nonetheless to be my very best that week. In fact, it inspired me to write this blog post.

So with that said, I'm going to go email one of my mentors.

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