A mentoring relationship can be one of the most worthwhile ones you’ll enjoy, but when things go wrong, they can go very wrong. You may have reached the natural end of your relationship. Or you may have made a bad decision.
Just like any other business relationship, the key is to manage it with as much respect as you can muster. Even if your mentor is not in your line of business, you’ll probably see them several times after you end your mentorship with them.
Before you tell them that you want to break up, start asking yourself some hard questions about why you want the relationship to end. After you know the answers, it will be easier to tell your mentor honestly why you think you both should go your separate ways.
Have you changed your long term or short term goals?
If that’s the case, there might be someone else out there who can do a better job of helping you reach them. You may be at a point where you want to drastically change your business goals. Once you do so, you’ll need to connect with someone who has experience in the direction you’re heading into, and that may be a completely different person.
Does their advice and guidance currently help you overcome obstacles?
In the past, their words may have been golden, but lately, it seems as if you have to ignore their advice. When you make decisions that go against their advice, you have more success. Maybe they’ve just stopped “getting you.”
Are they currently helping you develop your professional skills, opportunities and networks?
One of the greatest advantages of having a mentor is the ability to take advantage of their own business contacts and experience. You may have reached the point that you’ve exhausted all of these resources.
Are you in a marriage of convenience?
Did either of you agree to the mentorship “just to be nice” to the other? Did you go into the relationship thinking your mentor would be perfect for you just to realize that you don’t mesh very well? Have you constantly had problems relating to each other? It’s probably time for an amicable divorce.
Is your relationship turning toxic?
A toxic mentorship doesn’t have to be abusive. It can simply be one that is inhibiting your personal or professional growth. It is possible that your mentor has some jealousy issues and is deliberately or unconsciously trying to sabotage your growth. You may be responsible for the toxicity, hanging on to your current mentor like a security blanket long after you should’ve let them go.
Most mentors will take on several mentees over the years, and if you’ve outgrown your mentor, tell them that you know it’s time that they move on to another mentee. No matter how you feel about your mentor and your relationship, the key is to keep things open. This is especially true if your mentor is guiding you in your business life. Focus on all the positive things that your mentor has done for you, like sacrificing her time, taking you to networking events, or taking you out to lunch. It would be a nice touch to take your mentor on one of these activities as a way of saying thank you and goodbye.
If word gets out that you’re ungrateful, demanding, unprofessional, and ended your previous mentorship by just not responding to emails, it will be virtually impossible to find another mentor. We select most of our mentors due to their superior position in an industry, their large network of contacts, or advanced experience. If you leave your mentor in a negative way, you may very well shoot yourself in the foot professionally. Even if your mentor is a total jerk, refrain from treating him or referring to him as such.
In the future, you may decide to return to your mentor. You never know how different things may be in five years, or even one year from now. If the two of you had an amicable split, you mentor will be more amenable to returning to mentor you in the future.
Leaving a mentorship means that you’ve grown in some kind of way. When you end your relationship, take pains to do so in an positive and open manner. Even if things have started to do downhill in your relationship, if you take charge and end things on a positive note, you’ll be able to leave with your dignity and professional reputation intact.
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