Finding Balance in Mentorship
Mentorship is fantastic. I've gone through it myself, but it can also become detrimental to the ambitious of us. It's one of the best ways to learn and grow as a chef at a rapid pace. For those of us who aren't sociopaths, it leaves a sense of indebtedness towards the mentor. Over time, your mentorship will get to the point where you've learned about all you can, so you aren't benefiting from the relationship as much as you used to. Meanwhile, your mentor has a solid, dependable worker who can replicate his own work. You get to the point where you're very valuable to them. When you start to look elsewhere so that you can continue learning and growing, your mentor may try and pull you down.
The mentor - mentee relationship is a very special one. They're often formed early in a career, through a placement program or through finding work. It's an excellent relationship because of how it benefits each party. The mentee, who's usually pretty new to the industry, gets to learn from a veteran. This is great because the veteran will understand the tasks or concepts that may be giving the mentee trouble. They will have experienced many of the same issue themselves and can help the mentee work to find a solution and improve their skills. The mentee will be able to take things they've been learning about from books, courses or the internet, and try them in a proper kitchen setting with the guidance of a professional. This combination of research and practical application will help the mentee gain a more thorough understanding of the concept at a faster pace. The mentor will have a larger knowledge base from all the experience they've accumulated over the years. The mentor gets to pass on their knowledge, answering any questions the mentee may have about a technique, ingredient, or even history of a dish. When you teach something, you also gain a deeper understanding of it, which serves to cement the techniques and knowledge in the mentor's own mind. Learning under someone, the mentee will pick up their style and the way they work. The mentor will also gain some motivation from working with a mentee. Through this process, the mentor gains the loyalty of the mentee, while having groomed them to be the perfect teammate. The most beneficial aspect of the relationship is that the mentee is pushed to learn more and do better. With a good mentor, this motivation can be incredible. It will drive the mentee to learn everything they can and hone their skills to try and get to the same level as the mentor. The mentor will pick up some of that motivation and excitement themselves, reigniting their fire and making things interesting again. When the two have been working together for a while, they can become an unstoppable team by learning from and challenging each other. While mentorship is great for those of us who are continually looking to get better and learn more, it can become a hindrance when your skills begin to pique under the tutelage of your mentor. Things reach a point where you might be getting held back for the mentor's own benefit and this is where things go wrong.
When the relationship between a mentor and mentee is balanced and each party is benefiting from it, things go well. Yet, for the mentee, one of the major benefits is learning from the mentor. After a while, they'll have learned about all there is to learn from the mentor. To continue growing, the mentee needs to branch out and continue their learning from other sources. The ambitious will start to look elsewhere for new challenges and opportunities, but the mentor might try and hold them back. After all, they've put in a lot of time and effort in guiding and bringing up their mentee. The mentor gets the most benefit from the relationship when the mentee can work without them and is ready to move on. It's an inherently imbalanced equation and this is how things can go wrong. When your mentor is relying on you and your abilities in a work position, they will want to hang on to you with all they have. It's hard to find good workers that you can work well within the culinary industry, so when you find them, you need to try and keep them. The mentor will have put in a lot of time and money to help bring up their mentee over the years. So, when starting to look elsewhere, the mentor may be left feeling betrayed. Then, the mentee will be feeling guilty of having hurt someone who's helped them grow their career. If you're not careful, you can become stuck. While trying to keep people happy, you make yourself unhappy and unmotivated. If your main goal is to continue learning and getting better in the kitchen, you need to move on to a new mentor. You need to branch out and take in new points of view. When your abilities are at parity and start surpassing those of your mentor, stay humble, remember how they've helped you get to where you are.
While there are huge benefits, to the mentorship relationship, it can become unhealthy if both parties are focusing on themselves. The mentor might want a good worker in the end, while the mentee wants to continue learning and broadening their horizons. When one holds the other back for their own benefit, things get rough for everyone. Ultimately, the relationship needs to be redefined. Both parties need to realise their capabilities and look to see how they can best help each other while working towards their own goals. Usually, the relationship needs to be loosened. The mentor needs to allow, even push the mentee into a new, more challenging situation so that they can keep growing. Meanwhile, the mentee needs to maintain the relationship and help out their mentor where possible. It's beneficial to maintain the relationship so that in the future you can get together to advise and bounce ideas off each other. To have the best mentorship relationship. you need to be very open with one another. When you talk about your goals, aspirations, personal life and problems, you will form an even deeper bond that can last the ages