The Four Mentor Archetypes You Need in Your Professional Circle

By Amy Thomasson, CAE

Crowds of people walking across a busy crosswalk at the intersection of 23rd Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan New York City NYC

The data isn’t surprising: Mentorship (or the absence of mentorship) has a distinct, quantifiable impact on your career.

According to a Journal of Applied Psychology analysis of 43 mentorship studies, employees who receive mentoring are more likely to obtain higher compensation, a greater number of promotions, and higher overall career satisfaction.

If we know mentorship is critical to career success, why are so many professionals struggling to secure mentoring relationships? “As human beings, it’s difficult for us to ask for what we want or need, so it’s hard for someone to ask another person to mentor them,” says Cecilia Sepp, CAE, CNAP, CEO of the 501c League. In fact, the need for mentoring guidance has been especially apparent in association management. “In July 2018, I was reading a post in ASAE’s Collaborate community where a member was again asking about a mentoring program. As I was typing a reply to the person asking the question, I decided I would start a mentoring program to help people connect. I found a need in the market and created a program to fill it.”

While the pathway to developing meaningful, personal mentoring relationships is unique for every individual, there are four mentor archetypes that have served me well in my career journey that may help to spark some inspiration in you.

The Impartial Impactor

An impartial impactor is an individual who is not a current colleague but has a strong understanding of your role and industry. They can provide you with objective feedback, as there is no personal stake in your results other than the goodwill of guiding a fellow professional. In my journey, that individual is Scott Oser, president of Scott Oser Associates, with whom I was connected via the 501c League.

“I think it’s valuable and actually recommended for mentees to have a mentor outside their organizations,” says Oser. “Someone outside of your own organization will have a different perspective than an insider. They will be experiencing different situations and different people on a regular basis and having that variety in a mentor can be very valuable.”

The Attitude Adjuster

An attitude adjuster is a coach, not a cheerleader. This is an individual whose leadership and positivity inspire you, but who is also comfortable providing you with a perspective or attitude recalibration when needed. “Your attitude plays a vital role in the outcome of your journey,” says Burt Blanchard, a former colleague who also serves as my attitude-adjusting, inspiration-giving mentor. Blanchard is the director of membership for InterAction and has more than 20 years’ experience in nonprofit management. “In keeping a positive attitude, make sure it’s a real one, and one of inquisitiveness. Keep your outlook not only on exploration but also the joy of possibilities and discoveries. That will drive you to interesting connections, experiences, and outcomes, and that’s the message I hope to convey to mentees.”

The Office Oracle

An office oracle is an individual whom you currently work with. They have history and tenure at the organization and can assist you with navigating the unique politics, policies, and personalities of a new organization or role. For example, last year I joined Cure SMA, a nonprofit organization that supports people with a rare neuromuscular disease called spinal muscular atrophy.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have several office oracles. From the Chief Operating Officer who guided me through my first board meetings and budgets at the organization to the Vice President of Development and Events who has helped me navigate the changes of working with a fundraising-driven organization rather than a membership-driven organization. These colleagues have provided me with insight and perspective as well as friendly faces to help me feel confident in my new adventure.

The Path Paver

The path paver is an individual who is further along than you in your desired career trajectory. Path pavers help you see your own possibilities reflected in the journeys of others. Personally, I have had the benefit of connecting with a handful of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and volunteer leaders over the past several years who have served as seminal guideposts at various points in my career journey, likely without even knowing I viewed them as mentors.

The path paver can be the most elusive type of mentor as these individuals are in high demand for mentorship and typically serve in demanding roles. While you may not find a singular path paver to meet your mentoring needs, the culmination of wisdom found from even a few brief moments of interacting with one of these leaders can be the impetus for meaningful change.

This article was adapted and updated from “The Mentoring Mix: Optimizing Your Personal and Organizational Mentorship Efforts” which ran on May 3, 2019, on ForumMagazine.org.

About the Author

Amy is Vice President, Marketing & Communications at Cure SMA. Amy has more than 17 years of experience in marketing and nonprofit management.

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